Spring. I love the feeling of the first, bright warm day after a long and gray winter. Everything feels new, fresh and beautiful. For me now, spring also brings with its gentle breeze a tinge of sadness. I imagine it’s a little piece of my heart that although healed, will never quite be the same. It’s not necessarily pain anymore, but more of the dull ache that loss leaves. It’s a reminder that to love requires one’s heart and to give one’s heart is a risk. It’s also a reminder that when a heart is broken by loss, there is a Father Who cares and can bring restoration and healing to those broken places as well as a depth and trust that can only happen through the pain of suffering.
Nine years ago this March as winter was turning to spring, we were expecting our fourth child mid-summer. We had two boys and one little girl and were looking forward to this new addition to our family. This new little person was the reason we were building a new house. Our house we lived in would just not fit one more, so we had decided to move. Well into my second trimester, our little one was growing. I had started feeling movements and the kicks I always looked so forward and had grown accustomed to talking to this little one every morning when I woke up and throughout the day. Pregnancy was perfect for me since I love to talk – even to myself. I had an ever captive audience while pregnant. Everything seemed to be going well except for the appointment where the doctor told me the baby seemed a bit small and moved my due date.
I vividly remember the Tuesday day when the weather was first in the 60’s and I took the three kids to the park. Everyone was at the park it seemed and I was lost in my little world of watching the kids, daydreaming about the house and the new baby. I couldn’t wait to find out what we were having the next day at my ultrasound and imagined different ways that we could announce the gender. I had noticed baby had been a little quieter the past couple of days, but didn’t worry too much. I just kept thinking about how good God had been to us. We had been through some hard years and things finally seemed to be settling down and we were finding our stride.
The next morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m. knowing that something was terribly wrong. I called the doctor and they told me to lay down and not get up until my already scheduled 9:30 appointment. I lay in terror wondering how I could do bedrest with my older three, thinking that I would probably be admitted and would need bedrest until things settled down. We left for the doctor and I just remember trembling, and thinking that I would be so thankful to see the baby and know what needed to happen next.
Laying on the exam table, I will never forget the perfect form of our still baby’s outline on the monitor. The nurse looked a little panicked and started moving things around and pushing buttons. I kept asking, “Shouldn’t I be hearing a heartbeat?” I think I repeated myself several times and my thoughts began racing. I felt as if she couldn’t hear me so kept asking over and over. She answered with, “I need to go get the doctor.” As she walked out, I looked at John shaking and said, “The baby died.” He looked at me and said, “You don’t know that.” I felt panicky and dizzy and wanted to scream, “YES, I DO. I KNOW!”
The doctor walked in slowly with a grim face and softly shut the door. He too looked at the ultrasound grim faced and then gently pulled me up by the hands. “I’m sorry. This is very unusual at this stage and we rarely see it. (I was 20 weeks – 21 without the moved due date) This is news that no doctor ever wants to give a parent. Your baby has died.” The floor fell out from underneath both John and I and everything went into slow motion. I couldn’t make sense of what the doctor was saying as he told me that I would need to go through a normal delivery and he would give me medicine to start labor at home. When I was in full labor, I would need to go to labor and delivery and have our baby. They would be able to tell us what went wrong after more tests.
My parents came and prayed with us and took our kids. Everyone felt loud and distant at the same time. I refused the medicine that would start delivery because it said, “Do not take while pregnant.” I just kept reading it. It felt like a mockery. I refused to believe that this baby I had felt kick just days before would never kick again. I wanted to hide, but I couldn’t. We cried, but mostly we were numb. My labor started in the evening and we drove to the hospital – just like we had done with our other children, but this time I had no energy for the birth. This nightmare was mine – ours -and I wanted out. They sedated me and the kind nurses put loud fans in front of the door to drown out the sounds of the births going on around me and the sounds of new life. Our room was silent. The delivery was silent. The baby bed was dark, but ready complete with a tiny outfit, a blanket, and syringes to clean her off, and bracelets. The faces in the room told the story. I secretly hoped that she would be born alive and healthy. Nothing a little NICU stay wouldn’t help. The nurses were silent as I voiced my hopes. One gently put her hand on me and said, “Sweetheart, you saw the ultrasound.”
When the delivery was done, the tiniest most fragile little child was placed in my arms. Jordan Peace was only seven inches long from her head to her bottom and weighed ounces. She was too fragile to measure her full length, but her full length was around 9 or 10 inches from head to toe. Her hand was the size of my thumbnail, but was perfectly formed. Even in the devastation, I couldn’t help but be amazed at this tiny little life. We held her the entire day knowing that this was the one chance we had. We took in everything. Her tiny lips and little ears. The padding of her feet and hands all perfectly made. Her skin was so thin that we had to handle her very gently.
The nurses were kind and took pictures with a disposable camera and then put that in a nice gift box along with her bracelets, the blanket they had used for her, her certificate of life, her crib namecard and her hand and footprints. When it was time to leave, I felt empty carrying my little purple giftbox while others were walking out with carseats.
I was still too numb and in shock to understand that the tidal wave of grief was coming. I saw the pink and blue roses on the doors and the white on mine, letting nurses know to be sensitive because there was a death in the room. They gave me the white rose, but I threw it away. I so badly wanted a pink rose. We brought many to her grave.
The days following were filled with a grief I had never known. I couldn’t go out because I would end up in a heap of tears at the most inopportune times. Sleeping was better than being awake. The news that her cord was the cause of her death made me angry. The first several mornings, I woke up so glad to wake up from the nightmare only to realize the nightmare was reality. I would wake up talking to Jordan and then emptiness would suffocate me. My chest physically hurt for days and I literally felt that the wind was knocked out of me. Seeing pregnant women or new babies would send me into sobbing. We had to sit in the balcony at church because I couldn’t stand being near babies. I couldn’t handle putting my regular clothes back on or looking at my not pregnant stomach. I was just too raw. The rawness faded after a few months, but there was a gaping hole left in its place. God eventually filled that place with trust in Him, hope in Him and love from Him, but it took time. A lot of time.
This is the thing – God was speaking. He was there giving perspective and giving hope even in my hopelessness. For the couple of months prior to having Jordan, God had been speaking to my heart about worship. He had been showing me that our whole purpose here – the very reason we were created was to know and worship Him. I thought, “What a waste of a life. She didn’t even get to live.” God spoke to my heart, “Why did I create you?” “To know and worship You,” I replied. He asked, “Why did I create Jordan?” and then it hit me. She was and is doing exactly what she was ultimately created to do. Her little life wasn’t a waste! We are eternal beings – she just missed the earth part. This part is a little blip on the screen. A piece of dust in a vast universe of time and that’s all she won’t know. John and I had a part in giving life to a beautiful girl who is as much alive as you or I are today. That meant so much to me. If your little ones aren’t here any longer, it’s true for them as well.
Over time, God began to heal my heart and help me to trust that He is good even when life is not. In my devastation, He came near and spoke things to my heart. I didn’t have the strength to hang on, but He didn’t let go. I clung to Him with what little strength I had. I would say things like, “I KNOW You are good, but it doesn’t feel like it right now.” “I don’t understand, but I know that YOU do.” “My heart is broken and not just that – it’s crushed. There is going to be no piecing this back together, but I know that YOU are my healer and You can heal even this.” Sometimes my words were a lot less eloquent like, “Help.” Or sometimes my prayers were, “I can’t do this and I don’t want to.” He did these things in John as well.
I can’t tell the story without one of my favorite parts. We left the hospital on March 15th, 2007 with our little purple box full of memories. Exactly one year later on March 15th, 2008, we left the hospital with little Drew in his carseat. Not only that, but the nurse came in with a small gift from the gift shop. She said, “I noticed in your charts that you had a little girl a year ago today. I know that even though you are excited about Drew today, I know you must also be sad about your little girl.” That nurse was a gift from God to me. The pain was still raw and deep on that day, but unspoken. He is a God Who knows our hearts.
I know that others have been through much much more than my story, but I am confident that the One Who holds our life stories in His hands is able to make even the most horrific stories beautiful (Job 12:10; Isaish 61:3). I fully believe that in every trial, God always wants to show us something good about Himself that we could only see in that broken place (Psalm 27:13) His heart for us is good and He longs to show it toward us in the midst of our hard – and He will if we let Him (Psalm 107:1)
For you who are sinking in grief over a loss in your life, you may not know how to hold onto Him, but He knows how to hang onto You (Isaiah 41:13) Cling to the hand that is already holding yours. He is not a God Who is far off, but He is a God Who is near (Psalm 34:18). Always. Believe Him. Believe that He is for you not against you (Romans 8:31). Believe He loves you (Romans 8:37-39) Hang on. He’s not leaving (Deuteronomy 31:6) You may not know how to navigate your life or your grief, but He does. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to go to Him with Your grief and let Him heal those places. If you are struggling with being angry with Him, ask Him what it is that You don’t understand about His heart for you. Don’t shrink back in anger, but ask Him to help you see clearly. You cannot afford to let go and run from the Heart Healer.
Father, this grief feels like too much for me right now. I feel like I am suffocating. Please help me to see clearly. I choose to hang onto You and believe that You are good, that You are kind and that You love me. I need You, please heal my heart and help me navigate this well. Help me to see things about You through this that I have never seen before. I entrust myself to Your loving hands. Amen.