I remember the day just like it was yesterday. It began as a very typical day in the life of motherhood. My children, ages 2 and 3, came to my bed to tell me I needed to wake up, so I yawned, gave them morning kisses, and said, “ok, ok, momma is up.”
I was 32 weeks pregnant with our third child; our baby girl named Eden Grace.
Every pregnancy has its challenges, yet just as my previous pregnancies, I had no major complications, only the typical, joyous labors of love: heartburn, lower back pain, and fatigue. Baby girl and I were perfectly healthy.
Next to my bed was her bassinet, ready for her arrival. I remember looking over at it the night before, as it hit me, as it felt so very real-- We would be having our third child in just weeks. I had my perfectly healthy, 6lb 9oz son at 36 weeks with no complications, so at 32 weeks with my third child, I expected her to arrive on the earlier side. And just in case that happened, her nursery was complete, perfect, and beautiful. Everything was in its place. Now, it was a matter of waiting for her amazing arrival.
We had just had the most beautiful baby shower hosted by some of my dearest friends. The decorations, cake and details were such a labor of love. All of us were so ready to meet this new beautiful baby girl who would complete our family.
As I drove to the doctor’s office, I sipped my warm, one cup of coffee for the day in childfree bliss. I remember thinking to myself, “The baby isn’t very active lately… Usually, coffee makes her kick.” Yet, when I would place my hand on my stomach, I could feel her body as she subtly moved.
As I greeted my doctor, who had delivered both of my children and to whom I am very fond of, she asked me all the typical, standard questions. “Any spotting? Any concerns?”
Honestly, I had no concerns and had never spotted, so I answered “No.” As I lied down to have my stomach measured, I felt the need to mention to her how I hadn’t felt the baby move much. But, I knew that towards the end of pregnancy babies get cozy and don’t seem to move as much, so I wasn’t overly concerned. She told me that we needed to go ahead check on the baby with a sonogram, just to be safe. All along, there was not an ounce of concern.
I then get called back for my sonogram, as the technician checked on the baby, I saw her sweet body on the screen and noticed her lack of movement. I could tell by the look on the technicians face that something wasn’t right. She then told me to wait as she would like to call in my doctor for a closer look.
And then, the dreadful words I can still hear in my mind from time to time…
“I am so sorry, I don’t know how else to tell you this…there is no heartbeat… I am so sorry.”
I remember the heartfelt way in which my sweet doctor told me as tears streamed down her face. I remember the complete shock and surreal feeling as I tried to take in the depth of those words. I was speechless and completely taken back. I didn’t instantly cry. I tried to process and understand. As she held me and walked me back to the doctor’s office to call my husband for me, my mind raced and my heart began to break in two. How would my husband take this news? How would I tell my kids?
I could hear him weeping loudly as she broke the news. I took the phone as we proceeded to cry together, and I told him I needed him near.
When he arrived, we held on to each other as we wept and prayed, and then, gathered ourselves to hear from the doctor regarding the next steps in this process. What was I in for I wondered? As she explained the process, I tried to wrap my mind around it all. I tried to brace myself, yet all I wanted to do was wake up to find out that this was all just a dream.
“How could this happen? “There were no signs, not one reason for concern all along.
I heard the dreadful news about our baby girl around 10am Thursday, and then got sent home to wait until we finally got a call from the hospital at 2:30am Friday, letting us know they had a bed ready for us.
All day and night as we waited for that call, I cried out to the Lord, asking Him to be near. I repeatedly told Him, "I need to see you and feel you” “I can't do this without you".
All along, fighting fears and thoughts of having to go through labor and wondering if I would be able to bear seeing her face...and praying that the doctor had made a mistake. That night It was as if my body went into shock, my legs tightened up resulting in almost constant Charlie horse in both legs. My throat burned from heartburn and my body shook as I rocked back in forth in bed…The waiting was so very brutal.
We finally got to the hospital 16 hours after first hearing the news... Once I was there I repeatedly told the Lord during the hours of labor, "I need to see you Jesus, where are you?"
My husband and I know that the Lord alone is where our help comes from. As we began playing worship music and our prayers filled the hospital room, eventually a supernatural calm and a feeling of warmth and comfort began to fill the room as well. Jesus’s presence became known.
Then as I saw my friend and nurse, Kaela, who was bent down at the side of my bed worshipping and praying for us, I realized that all along He was there; He was there in Kaela.
She was like the Holy Spirit, ever present, comforting, kind and caring for our every need.
Despite the presence and comfort of the Lord, this situation was still undeniably hard. The process of forcing my body to deliver a child was not natural. It took various rounds of medication and hours upon hours of waiting.
Yet, after all the medication and waiting, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. I held her in my arms and took in all her gorgeous features. She was beautifully perfect, with full lips and the same curves as mine, a cute button nose, and a full head of dark, wavy hair.
She was so very beautiful, yet there was this fierce look to her.
That was the first and last time I would ever hold her here on earth as she was already in the arms of Jesus when I met her.
Her beautiful face is an image that stays in my mind always. An image we choose to reserve for our family.
Meeting Eden was bitter sweet…a taste of what could have been, but would never be.
And yet, there were so many more hurdles to cross, even after what seemed unbearable enough. I then needed to leave the hospital and face the reality of what had happened. It was night when I left, which matched my feelings of loss as the darkness overtook me. I felt so weak and drained, I felt as if I was stolen from. As we drove home, and tears filled my already swollen, red eyes, I couldn’t help but compare the feeling of complete loss I currently felt to the overwhelming joy I felt in the times past leaving the hospital with two healthy babies.
The emotions and physical pain did not stop after leaving the hospital. Recovery was an entirely different process than that of post-birth with a healthy baby and a natural birthing experience. I knew what normal felt like. This time was much different. This time it felt as though a train had hit me. My entire body was so very sore. I bled heavily for months on end. My breast milk came in sooner than normal, only serving as more of a reminder of what was missing. And then, of course, there is the flab of a stomach remaining.
Next, there were the hospital and doctor bills that still come in because after all, I did deliver a child…I just didn’t get to take her home. Coming home from the hospital was another blunt reality of what had happened…mainly because our home was filled with baby items and her beautiful, finished nursery was there and needed to be taken down.
Going to the follow up appointment in the same office I was told the dreadful news was very hard and emotional. Our first trips out in public were equally excruciating. Meeting other moms with babies or pregnant moms was especially tough. There was an awkward feeling of wishing I could explain the reason I had a post pregnant body and having to be careful not to mention anything regarding my latest pregnancy…The pregnancy that was still so fresh to my mind and body, the pregnancy that was my “normal” for the previous seven months. I knew that mentioning it would only result in questions and the need to tell a story I was not ready to tell.
But, you see, despite what happened, life goes on and it must be lived. Despite the despair, my other children, our church family, my husband, my friends, my dogs, my house, all still need me. And instead of staying hidden away in mourning, I chose to keep going. I chose to get up and keep moving. It’s a choice I made of faith. Because I knew my God wouldn’t leave me hanging, I knew He would carry me and comfort me through the hard times. So, I did my part. I kept going with the expectation that my God would do His part. He did, and He still is. After a while, I wasn’t just “moving” by faith. Instead, I am back to living a life full of passion, hope, joy and peace.
I didn’t get here overnight. I was completely knocked down, yet never completely crushed.
I knew that having hope in Him and thinking on the fact that she was happily with Jesus sure beat being depressed or staying in a place of grief.
You see, my silver lining is thick.
I have Hope--He alone is where my hope comes from.
I love the Lord with every ounce of my being.
I know and hear His voice.
He carries me through hard times.
He holds me when I weep.
We held such a sweet memorial service to honor her life. We worshipped and shared our stories and our faith in the midst. Those with similar stories of loss found healing. It was miraculous! There were tears, but more than tears there was a celebration of her life and what it represents.
I share my story for many reasons.
I share to spread hope to those who are hurting. There is a great life worth living. There's nothing wrong with finding something you’re passionate about, being filled with joy, and living life to the fullest again. Honor is not given to those who are gone by living in sadness.
I share because the topic of stillbirth and child loss is not talked about enough and should be.
It's an uncomfortable subject, but there's healing in telling one’s story.
I share details and photos so that the depth and pain of my journey become so tangible to others that their level of compassion for those who experience such tragedy is forced to grow.
I share in hopes of shining light on how we can best validate the loss of a child and the pain that each mother goes through.
I believe mothers simply want others to validate their loss for the brutally hard, life altering loss that it is.
Nothing more, nothing less. In the end, a loss is just that…a life that is gone, a part of someone that is now missing and cannot be replaced during our lives on earth.
But most importantly, I share to make it known that His grace is available to us all in our weakest moments.
“My grace (empowerment) is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:19
I literally looked for Jesus in my darkest hour and He came and gave me the supernatural ability to get through this and come out stronger.
You never really know the depth of your need for Christ until Christ is all you have.
Today, I continue to heal, to share, and to grow. I'm stronger than ever, more grateful, more compassionate for hurting people, and ready to continue with the dreams deep in my heart.
My smile remains, and it comes from a place of authentic joy within. Though we walk through fire at times, let us only come out more refined!
Please know that there is no pain too great that the Lord cannot heal. There is no loss or heartache that He cannot handle. After all, think of what He went through on the cross for us.
If anyone can understand our feelings of betrayal, hurt and pain fully, it's Jesus.
Run to Him, cry to him, talk to Him, ask Him to heal you, to comfort you, and to carry you when you are weak. He can handle messy.
Analyzing, resenting, and questioning the “why?” horrible things happen results in nothing positive. We will never have the answers to all of life’s mysteries until we meet Jesus face to face. Instead I choose to focus on the things I do know to be true. The Bible tells us that we are not guaranteed a life void of trouble or hard times. We are, however, guaranteed a loving God who will see us through and bring us out stronger. Once we are stronger, our story becomes someone else’s healing.
If there's one thing I am most certain of; God's story never ends with ashes.
Sweet Eden. You really were a delight to meet. Your legacy will be carried on through your family and the lives changed by your beauty. You will never be forgotten and will always be loved and cherished. Until I hold you again--Momma loves you.