At a ten week ultrasound in November of 2007, our baby was diagnosed with an untreatable and fatal condition. Twenty nine weeks later, on June 16th, 2008, our son, Zachary David Reiger, was born. He passed away 13 hours later, on June 17th.

We hope that Zachary's life encourages you in the hope of God, and you find, as we have, that God's grace and mercy are sufficient in all circumstances ... that His peace is beyond our understanding ... and the depth of His love amazing.

We invite you to watch the tribute below and meet Zachary, whom God has used to touch our hearts and forever change our lives.

A Tribute to Zachary - a slideshow to the song "Eternity" by Brian Doerksen

This site is intended as a place to capture memories of Zachary for the benefit of ourselves as well as our family, friends and anyone else touched by Zachary's life.

It is our intention to update it with pictures, information and stories related to Zachary's life and his continuing impact on our lives.

We hope you will check back occasionally for new posts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


When our baby was first diagnosed with anencephaly, it probably goes without saying that we prayed for healing. And we asked others to pray as well. Erin and I never received any sort of confirmation or promise from God for healing, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t hope God would change His mind.

At the beginning of April, Erin’s pregnancy was normal. The first trimester had been very hard for Erin, but everything was going pretty well and we had been working on his name, a part of the pregnancy that I always enjoy. If anyone asked me about the topic of healing at the time, I believe I usually said something similar to "we don’t have any confirmation from God with respect to healing, but of course we still hope that He will."

Then, Erin’s routine OB checkup in early April brought us face to face with the reality that our little boy’s condition was starting to deteriorate, and that God had not - at least yet - healed him. On April 13th, Erin sent the following message to our friends and family:

Dear friends and family,We wanted to update you on the pregnancy. I have developed polyhydramnios; a common complication for this kind of pregnancy. At my appointment on Friday I measured 6 weeks ahead, and after an ultrasound, my Dr. said there is twice as much fluid as normal. To say the least, this news was disappointing. The reality that our baby boy is not thriving is becoming more evident.

We have named him Zachary David which means 'God remembers His beloved'.

  • Please pray for my physical strength and for both of our emotional strength. God is good all the time, and He has proved it over and over to us these past months.
  • Pray also for wisdom and guidance as how to proceed. I am 30 weeks, measuring 36 weeks and will likely need to have several amniocentesis's to pull the extra amniotic fluid off. We also need wisdom on method of delivery, time to think and pray through different possible scenarios if they were to arise.
  • Pray also for protection over Micah and Madeline as Derek and I continue to process, grieve & accept all of this.

We feel the time drawing short, and our preparations are not yet complete. We know that in God's perfect timing, Zachary will be born, and we take great comfort in knowing he will pass on to his eternal home in heaven, into the arms of Jesus.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support during this season of our lives. We know we have been blessed beyond measure with you all!

Much love,
The Reiger's

Erin’s polyhydramnios was a direct result of Zachary’s condition. A baby with anencephaly usually has difficulty swallowing, and the baby’s swallowing is the method by which amniotic fluid is removed. Since Zachary wasn’t swallowing, the amniotic fluid was building up, and Erin was measuring six weeks ahead of schedule.

This was the toughest news since the initial diagnosis because it was an indication that Zachary had not been healed, and this sign of his weakening condition resulted in new depths emotionally.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Intrinsic Value

During my pregnancy with Zachary, God showed me something. Something I, as a woman, desperately needed to know. Not just a fact to file away, but a truth to saturate my heart in. This truth was regarding my value as a person. Where do I get my value? Does it come from what I do or say? I have done many good deeds and have said many kind words in my 31 years, but far more than the good deeds and words are the bad deeds and bad words. If my value were measured by what I've done, then my value is small, maybe even worthless.

There was a day, couldn't name the date, but it was in the fall of my pregnancy, that God brought me to my knees in helplessness. I admitted and embraced that I couldn't do the tasks I had been given. In the midst of being tired and nauseated from the pregnancy, knowing that I must carry this child that I couldn't keep, I cried out that I couldn't do it. I couldn't be this godly wife and mother to the wonderful family I'd been given.

For some time I had been trying really hard to BE all that God intended me to be but was failing miserably in most areas. God endured, and patiently waited for me to come to the end of myself to show me that it is not I, but HE who makes me who I am. He waited for me to come and ask Him 'who am I that you have created?' Then the pressure, rather, the burden I'd been feeling TO DO and TO BE was lifted. I am TO BE who He created me to be, nothing more. And what He has intended for me, He will enable me to do because He created me.

My worth as a woman, as a mother and as a wife are not dependent on what I do or don't do, or even what I believe about myself. Outside of what I think, God says: 'before I formed you, I knew you'. God said 'you are worth dying for' by sending Jesus into the world to pay the price for sin, my sin. My worth, my intrinsic value is given to me by God and He validates it with His Word - Jesus.

I'm sure this concept is simple for most, but for me it was profound and life changing. I stopped looking to my husband, my children, friends, acquaintances, family and the general public to validate my worth. And that's a good thing, because they often can't be what I need, even if they desire to, which would leave me feeling discouraged. Instead, I rested in the truth that my worth is unchanging in God's eyes.

God had a purpose in revealing this truth to my heart. Near the end of my pregnancy with Zachary, I came across a promise in Isaiah 43:

'He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: '
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Be not afraid"

In my mind I would wonder 'can I do this? In my heart of hearts, can I say good-bye to my infant son and say also that God is good?' I was afraid to find out if my faith was real - the kind that remains despite the fire of trial. But this promise God gives in Isaiah came alive to my heart and broadened my understanding of who I am in Christ; it is the Lord - the Holy One who has saved me. I belong to Him. He will not allow me to be overcome by this trial. And God was faithful. I was not overcome, no, far from that I was strengthened beyond what I could imagine. Even greater, I was not afraid. He had shown His great love for me over the past 10 months, and now I am more sure than ever of my value to the Almighty.

Many times 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 has run through my mind as I think on the heartache of losing Zachary:

'But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.'

My pregnancy with Zachary was, in a sense, a treasure in a jar of clay. Who, besides God, could show His sovereign power in my weakened pregnant state, carrying a baby whose body was failing a little more every day?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Big Blessings ...

After we received the diagnosis and started investigating the experiences of others, we were somewhat frustrated at our inability to find a perinatal specialist who understood our decision to continue the pregnancy. About halfway through the pregnancy, a friend of ours saw a profile on a local news channel about the fetal concerns program at The Children’s Hospital. It was hard for Erin to make that call, but we are so thankful for the help we received. It was a tremendous encouragement for us to find experts in this field of medicine that valued Zachary’s life as much as we do. Of course, the medical advice and experience they provided was also invaluable.

I first met Bill Meyer at a picnic for family’s at our church that have adopted or were in the process of adopting when we saw him taking pictures there. I remember Erin looking through the pictures from that picnic and talking about what great pictures he had taken. Erin already knew his wife, Dawn, from working the Sunday School check-in desk on Sunday mornings, and after we found out about Zachary’s condition, Dawn told her about The Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation, which Bill volunteers with to provide families in situations like ours with a professional portrait session to capture memories and share their lives.

Bill was able to come to the hospital shortly after Zachary was born and spend over an hour capturing pictures of him and our family. He also spent the next few days working on the slideshow tribute for Zachary’s memorial. We watch it every day. I have told Bill more than once that I will never be able to pay him back for the gift he has given to us (and I know he expects no such thing), but I pray for God’s blessing on him and his family. You can find out more about Bill and his photography work here:

In the late summer of 1995, at the start of my sophomore year at the University of Colorado, I made a visit to Calvary Bible Church to check it out. It is easy for me to see now that the care and support, both spiritually and physically, we received throughout Erin’s pregnancy and in preparation for Zachary’s life was thirteen years in the making. In the days following Zachary’s death and in preparation for his memorial, Calvary provided so much help. Erin and I wondered many times that week at how people going through an experience like this do it without the love, support and help we were provided.

Over a breakfast with another father who had to bury his son, I learned about the generous service that Crist Mortuary and Mountain View Cemetery provide to parents who lose a baby in Boulder. Zachary’s body is buried in the portion of Mountain View’s cemetery known as “Baby Land.” The cemetery, which is just across the street from Calvary Bible Church, was extremely generous in donating the plot and all of the labor that goes with a burial. It was and is a sweet blessing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

20 Weeks…

Back in October of 2007, Erin was working feverishly to complete the dossier for our adoption of a baby girl from China. She had been working on it for most of the summer, and had been pushing hard to get it completed. We had been waiting on one last piece of paperwork in order to submit it, and she was finally able to get it sent off. The next day, she wondered about her fatigue. Thinking back, she thought of how tired she’d been over the past few weeks and decided to get a pregnancy test just to rule it out.

When she called me at work my initial reaction was shock, revealed by silence. It was the fourth time I had received a call at work announcing the exciting news of conception, but this time wasn’t the same. Having just sent off the dossier to start the clock in the process of our adoption, we were initially frustrated and discouraged. Neither of us felt ready for a brand new baby – we were still recovering from Madeline’s first 12 months. Our first thought was actually “how could we have let this happen???”

However, for a few months prior to learning of our pregnancy, I had started to think about having another baby and, specifically, another son. I think there were just a lot of fun times with Micah over the previous year, and since we were working on adopting a girl, it seemed perfect to hope for a boy. The timing also seemed perfect for twins, but without the exponentially hard first year that comes with genetic twins. In my plan, our little boy would be about one when we finalized the adoption for his one year old sister. I even started thinking about what we would do for sleeping arrangements. So, it didn’t take very long for our worries to turn to excitement. Of course, I felt foolish when we learned of the diagnosis – I had gotten ahead of myself, and God, and taken for granted so many things. On February 6th, Erin sent the following message to our friends and family:

We had our 20 week ultrasound on Monday with our regular OB doctor and wanted to update you on the details.

Very clearly, this precious little baby is a boy! It was absolutely an answer to prayer that he cooperated so that we could begin seeking out a name and begin bonding in a deeper way with the short time that we have left. Other than the obvious malformation of the head, all other aspects checked out healthy. This fact proves to be difficult for our hearts to handle. The grief has become more intense, but proportionately so has God's peace. It's the kind of peace that we can't understand or explain, and yet it is real and of great comfort during this time.

You may be wondering if there is any indication of what will happen next regarding labor and delivery. My due date is June 21st (4 1/2 months to go). The doctor's know very little, as these pregnancies are generally terminated in our
culture, therefore they have little to no experience and are unable to answer most of my detailed questions.

What I do know:

  • pre-term labor is common
  • still birth rate is about 70%
  • polyhydramnios (extra amniotic fluid) is common
  • labor is generally difficult and long

Thank you so much for your prayers and support thus far! It has been a great help to us to be loved and encouraged in a very discouraging time. If you have been drawn to pray for us, please pray specifically that in God's perfect timing we would be able to meet our little boy face to face before he passes on to heaven. Pray also for our marriage to remain strong and protection against spiritual attack. And of coarse, if you are led to pray for a miracle, thank you! We will hope up to the very last second that God heals our baby!!

Much love,
Erin and Derek

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Diagnosis ...

Life was moving along that day just like most any other. I was preparing for our Thanksgiving trip to Idaho, trying to cross tasks off my list that Saturday morning in November, 2007. I was looking at finances, making sure bills were paid and things were in order. I was also planning out how the rest of the day would go so that we could leave right after Church on Sunday.

It is a 10-12 hour drive from Denver to Twin Falls, depending on the number of stops and the happiness of the children along the way, so we really needed to make sure we were ready to go by the time we went to bed that night. My mother-in-law had arranged for a professional photographer to take family pictures while we were visiting, so I wanted to take Micah, my 3 year old son, so we could get our hair cut. Erin was fixing lunch for us to eat before we went … nothing fancy, just grilled cheese.

She snapped at me as she walked back into the kitchen: “Can you help out for a second? The food is burning!” I was taken aback by her sudden change in mood and as we bantered back and forth about what was going on, she just came out with what was really bothering her … bleeding.

She was about 6 weeks along with our latest surprise (our daughter Madeline is 1), and we had walked this path before. As so often happens, the little things in this life that we take for granted change and the roller coaster ride begins. We had been thinking about traveling and check lists, haircuts and pictures, new babies and sleepless nights. Now we just had the sleepless nights.

Erin woke up early the next morning with severe cramping and we cried for our loss, but prematurely. No, the ride had not come to a stop … on this one, you get your money’s worth.

We knew the drill, so Erin rested that Sunday and we waited. Surprisingly, she had no further bleeding and only one more period of cramping, so by Sunday night we were allowing ourselves more hope.

First thing Monday morning, we dropped the kids off at a friend’s and headed to the Doctor. We both had a strange sense on that trip, and I told Erin that I didn’t even want to see an ultra-sound. “Just tell me if there is a heart-beat. That is all I want to know today.” Of course, I knew that we would do an ultra-sound, but we both think God was preparing us for what would happen next.

As the doctor brought up the baby on the ultra-sound, we could see and hear a heart beat and a little baby who was moving all over the place. As our doctor moved around, trying to bring the picture into focus despite all the movements, we made out two legs, then two arms, a torso, but she was having difficulty bringing the babies head into focus, or perhaps it was in focus? I stood up to peer closer at the screen, squinting as if my eyes were the problem, but I knew something was wrong. Erin knew it too, and so did the doctor, who was very gracious but, I think, hiding her concern. She recommended we schedule a visit with a perinatologist – a specialist concerned with the care of the mother and baby at higher-than-normal risk for complications - and I was still confused and just trying to come up with a reason for what we saw. “It must have been the angle the head was at … the baby was moving around a lot … maybe there was a problem with the ultrasound machine … etc.”

Erin wasn’t having any of it. We got out into the lobby and she turned to me and said that something was wrong. “They don’t refer you to a perinatologist if there isn’t a reason,” she told me. When we got home, Erin set to work investigating what we had seen. That evening on Monday, November 19th, she sent the following message to our friends and family:

Derek and I have been on a roller coaster the past few days and would appreciate your prayers regarding our pregnancy.

Early on - about 3 weeks ago, we had some mildly unusual results (a slightly elevated HCG level and less than perfect measurement of the baby in the 6th week). Since that time, the pregnancy has been uneventful. But, this weekend I had some bleeding that caused a scare, and then in turn prompted a visit to the doctor this afternoon. The ultrasound revealed a growing baby with a healthy heartbeat, but an unusual finding as well. The doctor felt the head was large and unusually shaped, and while sometimes this can be from fluid on the brain, did not appear to be the case. Worst case, the baby does not have a skull to encapsulate the brain (this is known as acrania or anence¬phaly- the baby is able to live within the womb, but the condition is fatal within 1 to 2 days of delivery and unfortunately, there is no current treatment). Best case would be just a bad angle during the ultrasound, but that seems unlikely. In any case, the doctor has recommended we see a specialist very soon and we have an appointment for next Tuesday morning.

The bleeding stopped the day it started and I continue to have all the normal symptoms of pregnancy. We both hope everything will be fine, but deep down, Derek and I already feel that the Holy Spirit has been preparing us for what is to come, and that what is coming will be very hard (I hope we are wrong). We are in a difficult place between rejoicing and grief - a limbo - that just drains us of energy. Please pray for our strength and courage this week as we process this uncertain news. Please also pray that the baby is okay, and if it's not, that God miraculously heal it. (If God brings it to your memory, pray for us next Tuesday morning during our appointment at 9 am as well).

We trust in a God who is good all the time, who will not leave us to walk the valley alone, and for that we are so thankful!

"Everything is possible for You. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but Your will be done." Mark 14:36

With love,
Derek and Erin Reiger

The following week at our appointment with the specialist, Erin’s diagnosis was verified. We were so thankful that God had prepared us and had broken the news to us gently. On November 27th, we sent the following message to our friends:

Thanks so much for praying for us during this time. Today, the perinatologist confirmed that our baby is suffering from a severe developmental problem called acrania, which is fatal. Acrania is characterized by a partial or, in our baby's case, a complete absence of the skull. We've been told this is a very rare anomaly, and the cause is not known. We don't know how much longer the baby will live for and it is possible, if not likely, that Erin will carry to term (the baby's due date is June 21st). However, even in that event, the baby will not survive outside the womb more than a few hours. So ... this could appear to be a normal pregnancy until delivery because the baby appears healthy in all other aspects, with appropriate size for 10 weeks and a strong heartbeat.

I do want to say that over the past week and a half, we have seen God's gentle preparation. Even in this difficult circumstance, we have seen His compassion on us. While we are grieving and certainly fearful for how the next 30+ weeks will go, we are also hopeful to see what God will bring about through this.

Thanks for your friendship,
Derek and Erin