“Our story didn’t start off like what you see in the movies. There was no flashing sign stating ‘danger ahead’ and there were certainly no feelings of foreboding or warning in the ballroom of our late September wedding. It was a magical night where a young couple in love (that was us) were surrounded by hundreds of their closest friends and family for a night of laughing, celebrating, and dancing (so much dancing). We started our lives together just like so many others. We had dreams and we made plans, and it seemed really quite simple…until it wasn’t.
Even after that beautiful night, our first months of marriage felt incredibly charmed. We returned from our two week honeymoon on the islands of Hawaii, and when just a few weeks later I looked down and saw two pink lines on a test that I had hidden in my medicine cabinet, my skin was still bronzed and glowing from our time beneath the palm trees. To say we were thrilled to be able to welcome a sweet baby into our arms would be an understatement. We quickly began praying over this tiny poppy seed that had inhabited by womb, and prepared our hearts and our home for this precious gift. My husband attended every prenatal appointment and I can so clearly remember his sigh of relief as the sonographer stated, ‘everything looks perfect, you have a beautiful baby.’ With each healthy heartbeat, with each precious kick we settled more and more into the idea that we would be parents well before our first wedding anniversary. Every single thing we had wished for and prayed for was coming to fruition…and we were thankful and so blissfully naïve.
After a lot of research I had decided that a natural, hospital birth was the plan I was most confident and comfortable with. I loved the mental and physical challenge that accompanied an unmedicated labor. I surrounded myself with an amazing support system and medical team. Each person handpicked for their expertise and the love that they already showed for our unborn baby. These decisions are still some of the most sacred choices I have made as a mother.
We had decided against finding out the gender of our little one and we were anxious to know if we would be welcoming a son or daughter and to see if they had my nose or my husband’s eyes. As our due date approached, and as I grew (and grew, and grew) I began to feel like our sweet and stubborn baby might never make their appearance. And just when I thought I might be pregnant forever (anyone who has birthed a child can relate) I woke up the morning before my due date with an unfamiliar and recurrent tightening that ran it’s painful track from my back through my abdomen. After going for a walk, and taking a hot shower did not speed up or slow down these ever present pains, I decided to go on about my day. I sent my hubby to work, and quickly followed suit and headed over to my job also.
Several hours later I had returned home, and my contractions remained the same. Although somewhat frustrated, I reveled in feeling our little one’s hiccups and movements, knowing that this might very well be the last day I felt them from the inside. As the day progressed, I swept the floor and cleaned countertops, packed and repacked my bags, and I finally climbed a step-stool to hang the last of the letters on the wall of our nursery. As I climbed down, I noticed the pain I had been feeling all day seemed more intense, and it wasn’t long before I realized my contractions seemed to be one on top of the other. I decided a hot shower was in order and asked my husband to let our birthing team know we were ready for them to make their way over. I did not feel rushed or panicked like I had expected, but instead felt incredibly calm and in control.
As we transitioned to the hospital I had a moment or two of wondering if we would make it in time. Although we only lived 7 minutes from the hospital, we had to pull the car over multiple times as I breathed and counted and swayed through each contraction…and when we did finally arrive I may have thrown myself on the floor and told a nurse that if I wasn’t given a room stat, I was likely to start scaring the innocent patrons in her waiting room. I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. As my midwife rushed in to meet us for the delivery of our first born, we all cheered as she let me know I was well past the half way point and had made it to 8 centimeters and was progressing quickly. From that point on we worked together as a team. I moved from position to position to attempt to bring our baby into this world. With each strong pain, with each labor milestone, I reminded myself that I was one step closer to seeing our baby.
And then finally, at 1:47 a.m. with one final and heart wrenching push our beautiful daughter, Emelia Claire, entered the world. She entered in a flourish and I finally heard the words I had so been longing to hear…we had a baby girl. But as quickly as the joy and relief entered the room, the terror began. Our perfect girl, who had a perfect heartbeat seen on the monitor just 2 minutes before, was born without one. The resuscitation efforts were instant and extensive. 5 shots of epinephrine were pushed into her tiny body and the nurses and practitioners fought for 21 minutes to establish an airway. Those minutes will forever be the longest and shortest of my life. Every prayer I had ever prayed paled in comparison to this one, ‘Let her live Lord. Just let her live. I’ll be better. I’ll be the best. I’ll never sin or cuss or be mad at my husband. I’ll cherish her. I don’t care if she is delayed. I’m a therapist, God…I can handle it. Just. Let. Her. Live.’
Our prayer wasn’t answered that day. And I don’t tell you that to leave you sobbing or angry or hurt on our behalf. I tell you that so that I can also tell you about the beauty that came from the ashes of our daughter’s death. The bittersweet end to this wild fairytale didn’t come overnight and it didn’t come how we expected.
The grief that comes from burying a child is truly unexplainable. It’s guttural, it’s life encompassing, it goes against the laws of nature…against God’s design. My husband and I entered that just barely 10 months into our marriage and I can so clearly remember him grabbing my face and telling me as I lay on the hospital bed of that silent delivery room, ‘we are going to get through this, she is our first daughter, but she won’t be our last.’ He was strong when I was weak, he was logical when I was anything but, and he truly is my saving grace. The one light spot that we clung to during that impossible time was the fact that we had gotten pregnant easily. However, grief and fertility do not always go hand and hand and with each passing month and as each of my tests screamed, ‘NOT PREGNANT’ my dread and anxiety only grew.
As we approached Emelia’s first birthday and also planned for yet another round of infertility treatments, I realized that I was nearing an emotional low and just could not continue forward on the path we were on…thankfully my husband agreed. So, three weeks later I made our first phone call to Faithful Adoption Consultants. After hanging up from that phone call, I burst into happy tears and knew these would be the people that would lead us to our next child (it was further confirmed when I learned that our consultant and our midwife shared the same last name). I dove into the required paperwork with vigor and on October 1, 2014, just 5 weeks after that first phone call, we became an active and waiting family. It was only 12 hours later we received another incredible phone call about an expectant Momma who was due with a daughter in later December. Although terrified of taking this leap of faith, we laid our ‘yes’ on the table and have been laying it there ever since.
That little girl, who that brave Momma was carrying so selflessly, ended up being our daughter. Ellington ‘Elle’ Claire, named after her big sister, was born 11 weeks later and we have had the joy and honor of loving her since the first moment we met her in a loud and bustling delivery room, where her amazing first Momma handed her to me with tears in her eyes and with her own heart aching. Her sacrifice is something I will never fully understand. Although I have left the hospital with empty arms and a broken heart, Elle’s first family did this by choice. They chose a life that they thought was the absolute best for her and that type of altruistic love is something I will never be able to comprehend.
To tell you a little bit about Elle, she is everything we have ever dreamed of in a daughter. She is so sweet it hurts, and she is as sassy as the day is long. She is an answer to so many prayers and she has healed our hearts in ways we never expected. She is also the most amazing big sister to two baby brothers! One who arrived just 14 months after her whirlwind entrance into our family and the next who came along 20 months later.
Our story isn’t easy, it’s not pretty, and it’s still not perfect. It’s hard and it hurts. We continue to grieve the loss of Emelia every single day, and I will go to my grave wishing I had her with me for all of my days on this earth. But it’s also one of perseverance, of continuing to get out of bed every day even when we really, really didn’t want to. It’s missing our first daughter while knowing that her life, although all too short, led us to our second. It’s knowing she has brought others (her Momma included) so much closer to Jesus and I thank her daily for my clearer view of eternity.”
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