Our Friend’s Stories

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James' Story
The beginning of the end our baby son's life began February 13, 2013. It was a Wednesday. I was 37 weeks plus 6 days pregnant. I was having my first home visit with my midwife that day. It was an exciting appointment! We were making sure everything was in place and ready to have our sweet baby at home. I had noticed less movement in the day or so before the appointment, but quieted my fears by reassuring myself that I was nearly 38 weeks along, and he was probably just getting nestled into the birth canal to make his grand appearance. When my midwife came and checked his heart rate, it was gloriously resting in the 140s, as it had throughout my pregnancy, so I chose not to mention what I had been experiencing. Rarely a day goes by that I don't wonder if he would be here with us today had I spoken up that day. I know now there was more to the Lord's plan than I could ever know, and nothing I did or didn't or could've stopped what was to come. Over the next couple of days, I still continued to notice his lack of movement, but still continued to tell myself that his heart rate was strong, and I was so close to my due date that it would all be okay, and I just needed to relax and wait to go into labor. 
By the night of the 16th, I tried everything I could think of to encourage James to be more active. I specifically remember that I drank cold orange juice, walked around the house, and then laid very still...with no response from his little body. The day went on, and the emotions were settling in. I was scared now. Truly scared of the unknown. I texted my husband who was only minutes away, at school studying, and he then suggested it was finally a good time to get in touch with my midwife. I texted her and explained what had been going on the last couple of days, hanging on to hope that she would reassure me everything was okay, and that he was just getting ready for birth. She actually did say that, and also said that if we would like to come down to her house that night, which was 40 minutes away, she would be happy to check on everything to make extra sure he was okay. I was desperate to have my fears subside, so that night after dinner, my husband, my three old daughter, and I went over to her house to check on our sweet baby. I was a whirlwind of emotions, but also very hopeful. I just didn't know what was going on with my baby, and that was a very unnerving feeling.
As I was lying on the bed at my midwife's home, belly bare, dopplar searching, my life came to a sudden halt when my midwife, after many long minutes of rubbing the dopplar all around my belly, looked me in the eye, and said, "I don't think your baby is alive." I burst into tears and said, "What do we do now?" I remember thinking "What do I do in this moment? What is the next step here?" and also "What do we DO? How do we live?" It was the heaviest blow. My husband came to my bedside with my 3 year old daughter, hugged me, and told me he loved me. The sweetest words. My midwife then gently explained that we would need to drive back to Searcy and go to the hospital for an ultra sound to confirm my James in fact no longer had a beating heart, and while we drove, she would call ahead of us so the hospital would be ready to receive us. The drive 40 minute drive from Jacksonville to Searcy felt like a lifetime. The tears were unending. Feeling whirred around my heart and my head in such confusion. Could what she said really be true? Could this really be happening? Is our baby gone? I chose hope. I chose to wait to feel anything tangible until we really, really knew. The drive was treacherous. My husband's comforting and confusing words, "God is good." still reside in the deepest parts of my soul as the most comforting thing you can say to a believer when the unexpected happens and leaves you broken. I remember singing songs with and for my daughter. I can't remember if she asked me to sing them, or if I knew that would be a comfort to her, but I remember singing sweetly with and to her as we drove along, cheeks wet, life in upheaval. We made it to Searcy and dropped our sweet girl off with trusted friends and headed to the hospital. Minutes felt like hours. We did a lot of waiting, and the ultra sound tech was very thorough. I kept telling James, "This is your chance. You can do it. Just one little blip is all they need to rush me into surgery and save your life. You can do it. Come on, baby. You're okay. You're okay. You're okay." I refused to give up hope. I was determined to have my baby son be okay. But he wasn't. The ultra sound did confirm that my sweet James' heart wasn't beating. He wasn't breathing. He really was gone. We then met with the on call OB because having a home birth was now out of the question. He gave us our two options, stay that night and have our baby, or go home, sleep in our own beds, process all of this a little bit, and come back on Monday morning to get the birth process started. It was a hard, gut wrenching choice. I wondered why it even mattered when or how he got out of my body. My pregnancy was over. Let's just move on. But as my husband and I sat together and truly weighed the options, we chose to go home. Looking back, I am so thankful we did. We had all of Sunday to be in our home, grieving and hurting together before we faced the experience of a stillbirth. We had no idea what to expect, but we knew it meant we would get to meet our son. We spent the day in bed, pouring out our hearts to each other. My parents had driven in from Texas as soon as we texted them something could be wrong with James, so they were there to love on our little girl while we processed privately. Because we stayed home that day, we were able to make a lot of really painful, really necessary decisions that otherwise would've been snap decisions. We chose to have our friend come and take pictures after the birth. We were able to have friends drop by, give hugs, and share tears. We chose to pack up all the precious, specially chosen baby items so that when we came home from the hospital, it would be easier to be in our home, not surrounded with quite as many reminders of what we had to leave behind. We were so broken. It didn't seem right. We explained to our 3 year old little girl how Mommy and Daddy would be going to the hospital to have baby James, but that he wouldn't be able to come home with us...because he died and was with Jesus now. Everything felt both incredibly surreal, yet the reality of it all stung so deeply. We did our best to rest and relax that night, knowing that everything was about to change.
Monday morning we showed up at the hospital for the induction process. Along with pitocin, the doctor also gave me cytotec to start ripening the cervix, since my body wasn't quite ready to have baby. They shared with us the hard truth that with this particular medicine, there was no way to know how quickly it would work. It could be hours, they said, or we could be there more than a day waiting for labor to begin. We immediately asked everyone we knew to start praying that it would work quickly because I knew I could just sit in that hospital, in limbo, just waiting for labor to start. It was too hard to be there to begin with. Waiting more than day just wasn't an option my heart could handle. We spent the day, waiting for labor, with the most amazing amount of supernatural peace. Friends and family came with food, love, prayers, and distractions. It was actually a really lovely, tender time. We made more hard decisions that day, too. Funeral homes, appointment times to make arrangements for a graveside service, and who would get to see him after he was born. I still couldn't believe we were actually having to consciously make these choices. As I remember, my contractions really started coming on strong around 6:00 that night. I was able to talk and eat as they came and went, so we just rolled with the contraction waves and kept on with our night. It wasn't long before they really started hurting...maybe around 7:30 or 8:30. The medicines were really doing their work, and I was thankful and scared. Laboring meant meeting my dead baby. Laboring meant meeting my sweet son! I opted for an epidural, because I was already feeling so much pain in my heart that I knew I wouldn't be able to naturally birth this boy of mine. Another hour went by, and I suddenly started gushing large amounts of blood. It was startling. My nurses reassured me that it probably just meant the labor was progressing very rapidly, and we would have a baby soon. I believed them, but I couldn't help but wonder if I was about to bleed out and just die right there with my baby, and that would be it. It was a dreadfully morbid thought, but it certainly crossed my mind. The Lord quieted my fears, and the following moments are a blur in my mind.  I remember having warm blankets put on me because I was shivering, and getting some extra fluids. I don't remember what happened after that. I know I pushed, and I don't recall it being for very long. My baby boy slipped out of my body, and the room was silent. I heard nothing. I felt the presence of angels. I was at peace. I looked up at my husband, and whispered, "I want to see him." I thought I was going to freak out and be to afraid to see a lifeless infant, but none of those feelings surfaced. In that moment, my baby boy was in the world. I was alive, and I wanted to meet him and study his features. It was 11:36pm on February 18th, 2013. They brought him over to me, wrapped in a blanket, blue striped hat on his head. I smiled. He was perfect. More perfect than anything I'd ever seen. They cautioned me that his skull was soft, he may have blood come from his nose, and to be sure and always support his head, because there would be no resistance. I touched his precious chin. He had a dimple just like mine and my Daddy's. I endured the hardest moment of my life...and I was filled with more love than I had ever felt. And then the crashing wave of grief came over both my husband and I. We sobbed. We wailed. We held each other, our second born baby, lifeless in our arms, and we grieved the life he wouldn't get to live. We grieved for ourselves, not getting to watch him grow. We grieved for his sister, his grandparents, we felt it all. 
We spent the next few hours soaking him up.  We studied every feature, praying we would remember how it felt to look at him once we had to give him back. Every inch. Every crease, joint, and fingernail. I didn't want to forget anything. We made imprints of his hands and feet in clay. We had a friend taking pictures of it all. <3 We shared him with grandparents, and we loved on that baby boy. After grandparents, photographers, and others had gone, we spent a few more moments with our precious baby. We were told we could have much time as we wanted with him. There was no hurry. There came a time we my husband was able to muster up the courage to say, "We've got to give him back sometime." I knew he was right, but all I wanted was to never let go. How would I go on? I exhaled. I breathed him in. I gave the nod to the nurses that I was as ready as I would ever be...And then they came over, and I handed them my James. It was gut wrenching watching them walk out of the room with him.  Tim and our nurse helped me to the bathtub. I sit there, numb. I didn't care about being clean. I didn't care about warm water to relax me. I just wanted to take my baby home. Tim curled up in the hospital bed. I joined him and cried while he slept as the sun came up. I couldn't sleep, so I just kissed him, covered him, and made my way to the couch where I started to share my baby with the world. I haven't stopped since, and I never will. 
What we have learned since the night of his birth, was that his story was truly just beginning to unravel. Meeting James and grieving for him for the last 5 years has left us with a deepened hope of Heaven, a more sincere purpose while walking out our lives on this Earth, and has allowed us to walk beside many people we love and some we have never met through their own journeys of grief. James is an irreplaceable member of our family, and his life and death will never cease to be honored.
-Dora 
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Joanna's Story 

Pain. There is so much of it in this world.

Any person you encounter in your lifetime has experienced some variant of heartache at some point in their lives. And while some have experienced more or less than others, nothing can compare to the anguish that comes with the loss of a pregnancy or infant.

Pregnancy or infant loss can feel so isolating, empty, and hopeless. God can feel so far away. But please hear me when I tell you, He is always there. I hope that by sharing my story, you can find the strength in Christ to begin the process of healing from the inside out.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with endometriosis after being rushed to the hospital with a ruptured ovarian cyst. I remember the evening before my surgery feeling this dull pain in my abdomen and trying to ignore it. By the time I woke up in the morning, there was no denying something was wrong. In what seems like a dream as I look back on it, I remember crying as I was being put under anesthesia and crying just the same when I woke up. I knew deep down something was wrong and when the doctor confirmed what she had suspected, she handed me a pamphlet on “endometriosis and infertility” and walked out the door. My entire world had been turned upside down and my husband and I immediately wondered if we would ever be able to have a child of our own. We were devastated.

Knowing what we were up against, we began to try to have a child after I healed form surgery, knowing it may take a while. After two years of heartache and disappointment, we decided to try one more month before seeking out fertility doctors. A few days after our decision, I began having pain in the night. I thought to myself there was no way this could be happening again. After being rushed to the ER for a second time, the doctors told me that my husband and I were pregnant but that I seemed to be in the middle of miscarrying. My endometriosis had resulted in an ectopic pregnancy which means a baby begins to develop outside the uterus. After a few days of blood tests, the doctors confirmed my worst fear. Because there is no medical technology that can transfer an ectopic pregnancy from the fallopian tubes or abdomen into the uterus, the doctor regrettably stated that he would have to terminate the pregnancy via surgery. My husband and I asked about every possible scenario we could to see if we could keep the baby… but a baby growing outside the uterus would never be able to receive the nutrients it would need to survive and could ultimately take my life as well. Heartbroken doesn’t begin to describe how news like that hits you. Knowing that you can never hold their tiny fingers and toes, to kiss their little pink forehead, to cradle them in your arms. To never see them grow up. It’s more grief than some people ever experience in their entire lifetime.

The next few months were the hardest months I’ve ever had to endure both physically and emotionally. Infant loss and miscarriage leaves a hole in your heart and it feels like nothing will ever fill it again. There are dark days; full of questions, sorrow, emptiness, and a sadness so deep your heart physically aches from the separation. It was then, in the depth of my darkness that I could truly see God’s light shining. Nudging me ever so gently toward using the loss of my pregnancy as a light to see the world like I had never seen it before. Our baby was in heaven, without suffering, and though we will be apart for a short time on this earth, we will one day be reunited for eternity.

When loss enters into your world, the only way to fill it is to realize that sorrow and joy can live in your heart together. Trials as deep as this can either strengthen your faith or it can cause you to be resentful and begrudging in your faith. I pray that you choose to see the light as I have. This past year, after two additional surgeries, God gave my husband and I boy/girl twins and the fierce love that emulates from me every day has only been exacerbated by allowing my grief to change me for the better. I pray you choose to let your grief strengthen and change you as well. I pray you are able to use your loss as a testimony to others so they can begin to rebuild their lives in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. It will not be easy. The truth is, God never promised this life would be easy… but he did promise to love you unconditionally and delights in our obedience and dependence upon him. You never have to be alone.

   "...there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before." -Thomas S. Monson

-Joanna 

Lana's Story 

I was so excited to be pregnant again. Being pregnant the first time had produced our happiest blessing, our daughter. However, when the blood work came back for our second pregnancy, it was good but not great; something was off with this one. I quickly jumped on meds to help the problem but at the same time my anxiety began to grow rapidly. I went through the motions of early pregnancy all the while remembering the strange feeling of hesitation burrowed in the back of my mind. We shared the news with our families. We put our 18 month old daughter in a pink tee shirt that read “Big Sister” in sparkly gold letters and watched with glee as people realized the news it foretold. And we hoped for the best.

We finally made it to our first ultra sound appointment. I remember being pregnant with our daughter more than 2 years before and of course the possibility of miscarriage was there but in my mind not really. I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. The ultrasound revealed my worst fear- the baby was measuring behind. However, there was a heartbeat. I could still be hopeful. We scheduled a follow up appointment for one week. That week was full of prayer. I tried my best to give the situation to God, but I was so terrified He wouldn’t answer the way I wanted Him to answer. It was a level of worry I had never experienced before in my life.

One week later, our baby’s heartbeat was gone. It was unthinkable, devastating, and in my worldly heart it was unfair. Everyone was so sweet but no one was able to “fix” it. Their actions helped more than any words could. The hugs, the help with my daughter, friends who listened and just let me talk were the things that helped me. I was thankful for the mom of a dear friend who sent me a book, Empty Arms by Pam Vredevelt. She had experienced multiple miscarriages and it was her ministry to send this book to those who experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, or tubal pregnancies. I’ve since adopted this book giving as my own ministry and have given away more copies than I would like. Come soon, Jesus!

I began to feel the first hint of healing one Sunday morning at church. Oddly enough the sermon was on John 3:16. It was the first part of the verse specifically that struck me, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son.” I remember thinking when I was praying for a viable pregnancy that I would NEVER have given up my baby for anything or anyone. Quite the opposite- I would’ve done anything for that baby to survive. And God willingly, happily gave up His only Son for all of us sinners. The love that He had shown for me absolutely blew me away. That fresh reminder of His grace began the healing process of my heart.

Really, we are all just making it up as we go along. The whole thing. Life in general. During my experience of loss, it was beyond comforting for me to know that other people had walked this horrible road and were able to come out of the other side standing. The encouragement of these women coupled with the knowledge of God’s faithfulness was in the end what strengthened and sustained me. Time does not heal all wounds. God can and does. However, time does scab wounds. If you’ve experienced the loss of a baby, please be encouraged by this: you will one day be able to put one foot in front of the other. It does get better and there are women and couples who can help you through it.

-Lana

Maddie Jane's Story 

We lost our first daughter, Madelyn Jane about two and a half years ago. We have since had another daughter, Lucy Joy. Lucy is such a treasure... Lucy means “light” or “dawn” and she has definitely been the joy in our new dawn. We miss our Maddie every day and as we watch Lucy Joy learn and grow (currently 15 months old) we wonder how much she and Maddie would be alike. I think they both have the same nose, my nose. I wonder if Maddie would laugh as much as Lucy. Lucy has straight hair and Maddie’s hair was curly like mine. Would she have curly pig tails? Would she love puppies and strawberries as much as Lucy does? These are questions we will never know this side of Heaven. I feel like the Lord has given us specific details along the way showing us how He has gone before us, which I am so thankful for. Knowing He grieves with us and He has celebrated every day with our Maddie Jane. Knowing that her little body was made whole and perfect and she never felt the pain of this world. Here is the beginning of our story with Maddie….

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To all who mourn He will give: bouquets of roses instead of ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory. Isaiah 61:3

I want to share our story of losing our sweet baby Maddie. I am excited to share what the Lord is teaching us through our suffering but feel like I need to start from the beginning...

A couple of years ago, I started praying that the Lord would make it clear to me when it was time for us to try to start our family. I knew I wanted to be a mom someday and we had been married for several years but were very content ... We had our dog Skeeter and quite frankly that was a lot of responsibility for us. On October 26, 2014 I was ready for a baby. October 25 I was not, it just literally happened overnight. We were pregnant that month and I was so thankful! I had prayed that the Lord would show us and then He provided! At 8 weeks we saw our baby with a heartbeat(!!!) on the ultrasound! Such a sweet time. Two weeks later we went back to the doctor and learned there was no heartbeat. I miscarried that baby on New Year's Day, 2015 at almost 10 weeks pregnant. We were completely devastated.

But then, we were pregnant the next month! Woohoo! THIS must be the Lord's provision. I had a super healthy pregnancy, the baby was super healthy. I was pretty sick the entire time so I didn't gain a ton of weight, it was awesome! We loved hearing our sweet Madelyn Jane's heartbeat and seeing her grow on the ultrasounds. While I was pregnant I went to Disneyland so she got to meet Minnie Mouse and see Snow White's castle- every little girl's dream. She went to the beach a couple of times and LOVED laying by the pool. I saw the Eagles in concert and when Joe Walsh sang "Life's Been Good" she danced around more than I'd ever felt! Her daddy would sing to her in my belly and she would kick in delight. The little jingle he made up was her favorite- "Hey little Maddie, this is your daddy. I can't wait for you to come out and play." On Sunday September 13, 2015, I went to church like normal then I held an open house (I'm a realtor) that afternoon. I was right at 32 weeks pregnant that day. While I was sitting in this gorgeous house reading a book in between visitors, I had a terrible pain in my back.  Just figured it was normal pregnancy discomfort. I realized about the time the open house was ending that I hadn't felt my baby girl move all day. I had felt her the day before and that night as I was going to bed. When I got home from my open house I tried drinking some sugary Kool-aid and lying on my side... when that didn't work after a few minutes I called the Health Exchange and the nurse told me to go to the hospital ASAP. She called ahead and the doctor on call was expecting me. On our way to the hospital we were super anxious and begging God to make everything be okay. When we got there the doc did an ultrasound and uttered those words we never wanted to hear again. There was no heartbeat. Memories of that moment have kept me up at night.

I had called my mom on the way to the hospital and my parents were passing through on their way home from out of town. As soon as we got the news my parents were at our side. We were admitted to a room and they started trying to induce labor that Sunday night. Maddie was breach (I think that was the pain I had felt Sunday, when she turned sideways) and by Tuesday I still had not really gone into labor. I'd had contractions and an epidural but we realized I was not going to have the baby the "normal" way, so we scheduled a c-section for that afternoon. Madelyn Jane Seyler was born September 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm. 3 lbs, 10 oz and 17 inches long. She did not come out screaming the way I had always dreamed. We had begged God for a miracle and He had not given it to us. The nurses cleaned her up and I got to hold my baby and kiss her and show her off to our closest family and friends.

That afternoon I held her and stared at her and tried to pretend everything was normal. I had this gorgeous baby girl who had my nose and my curly hair. We had pictures taken and I sat up proudly in my hospital bed so excited to hold this precious gift. The nurses told us to take as long as we needed to, no rush to hand her back. I could have held her forever, like I had always dreamed. That was the single hardest moment of my life, handing my baby back to the nurse... never to ever hold her again this side of Heaven. That moment has haunted me. The feelings of handing my baby over. I never got to rock her or take her home to meet her (furry) big brother Skeeter. I never got to dress her up in cute outfits or change her diaper. (This side of eternity) I will never hear her laugh or hear her say "mommy" or tell her about Jesus. Or complain to my friends about how exhausted I was having a newborn Maddie at home.

I stayed in the hospital another couple of days to recover from surgery. Then I went home with empty arms. I felt like I was leaving my baby at the hospital. I know she wasn't really there, she was in Heaven... But to leave the only place I had ever held her in my arms was so painful. They ran some tests and everything came back normal. There was nothing wrong with her, nothing wrong with the umbilical cord, no medical reason she should've died.

Through all of this we have felt so loved by our friends and family. Like, we cannot even express our gratitude with words. We know the Lord prepared the way for us and we have seen very specific ways He has gone before us. And honestly, Maddie is the most precious gift I have ever received. My heart is completely shattered but oh my goodness, what a blessing to have carried her for those 8 months. And I cannot WAIT to rock her in Heaven.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

 

To read more of our story head to maddiehadalittlelamb.wordpress.com

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Henry's Story
September 14th, 2013 was the worst day of our lives. I was 33 weeks 6 days pregnant with our 2nd son, Henry Andrew Brown. I am a labor and delivery nurse and I noticed a decrease in fetal movement. That night, as I was lying down, I noticed that he had stopped moving completely and I knew he was already gone. I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I knew it was already too late. He was gone. We arrived at triage and they tried to get his heart rate on the monitor. I had been the nurse on the other side of this experience and knew the steps they were going through and unfortunately I knew exactly what was happening. Eventually, the resident confirmed by ultrasound that Henry had died inside of me and they had no idea why. I was transferred to a room and had already begun contracting. They started pitocin and gave me an epidural that did not work very well at all. I could feel everything and I felt like it reflected the pain I felt inside too. 

 

Eventually, I gave birth to Henry on Sept. 15, 2013. It was painful. It was quiet. It was too quiet. I’ve been in so many loud delivery rooms through my 10 years as a nurse. A quiet delivery room is never good. No baby crying. No squeals of excitement and happiness. Just hushed tones of the nurses and doctor. A few “He looks so perfect,” comments I could hear the nurses saying. No explanation of what happened. The suspicion was a cord accident. There were no knots in the cord, but they supposed he tucked it up under his arm for too long and cut off his blood supply. 

 

Henry was a wiggle worm when I was pregnant! Our oldest son was only 9 months old when I became pregnant with Henry and I was a busy mom between the two of them. Chasing a toddler around while Henry was on the inside moving constantly. I knew I was going to have my hands full and my heart was already full anticipating Mack having a constant playmate and friend in his new brother. 

 

By 34 weeks, we had already prepared a nursery for Henry. People had made/bought us gifts for him and everything was prepared. I even had my hospital bags ready to go, just in case. I had picked out and washed his coming home outfit for him. It ended up being a “going home” outfit instead. We decided to bury him in it. I knew his new home was with God even though I desperately wished it could be with us.

 

I don’t think there is anything quite as devastating as losing a child. It’s not the natural order of things for children to die first. We had an early miscarriage in 2011, but had become pregnant very soon after and didn’t have the time to process our feelings the way we did with Henry. This loss was similar, but also different. 

 

I was in my 20’s and was having to choose a funeral home, a cemetery, a headstone, songs for a memorial service, things I didn’t anticipate choosing until I was an old lady. I was so thankful for the bereavement coordinator at the hospital and for the nice man at the funeral home who were so patient with us. My husband and I were in a fog. It didn’t feel like this could be real life. Surely it was just a horrible dream and we would wake up soon. We didn’t. It was real, and going through the aftermath of delivery was difficult. I cried so much at first. It was months later before I had a day that I didn’t cry at all. There were so many days that first year after he died when I thought, “Henry would have been doing____today.” So many little anniversaries. And time hop on Facebook was not my friend that year!

 

My first trip out of the house after delivery was to Walmart to buy a cabbage. Its leaves helped alleviate the pain in my chest from my milk coming in. I had a hard time understanding God’s plan in all of this. Why did my milk have to come in after Henry died? Couldn’t God spare me that additional pain and reminder that I had nourishment but no baby to nourish? Then I was reminded that God had lost a son as well, and he knew exactly how I felt. I also felt the hope of heaven and a reunion with my children one day was something that I did not want to give up. 

If there is any positive thing to come out of this, I think it’s the connection that you instantly feel to other women or families who have experienced something similar. You become part of a club that nobody wants to be in, but where everyone understands each other pretty well. I appreciate so much the Charlie’s Hands and Feet organization for bringing together families who have suffered the loss of a child and will help provide the assistance and guidance needed as they navigate the unfamiliar waters following the death of their child. 
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8
-Cara
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Ezra's Story

Becoming a mommy to an angel. 

 

My journey began with two little pink lines, we have a son already and wanted to grow our family, but we struggled for almost 2 years to get pregnant after our first. When we finally did in July of 2016 I was over the moon excited! I finally could give our son a sibling and have another little baby.

 

Everything in my pregnancy went fine, nothing out of the ordinary. I was in a few mom groups due in April 2017 like me, that became like family. As we all went through pregnancy together a few moms lost their babies early in pregnancy, a few were 20 plus weeks. Then one day a friend of mine posted that she had lost her baby girl at 36 weeks, February of 2017. I was 7 months pregnant and remember thinking, how awful that must be, I can't even imagine going through that pain and loss, that would NEVER happen to me. 
Fast forward to April, I went in Thursday April 9 for my regular doctor appointment, Ezra was fine, moving, and strong heartbeat. I was scheduled for a routine cesarean the next Friday, April 14, my doctor asked if I wanted one last appointment or if I just wanted to call it good and see her for the cesarean. I thought nothing of it and agreed on no appointment, what could happen in a week I thought, and of course losing my baby wasn't even on my radar or in my mind. 

 

That following Tuesday I felt off, I grew concerned that he wasn't moving as much. I told my boyfriend my concerns, I went back and forth in my mind, battling if I should go in. Wednesday morning I woke up with full intentions to go, buy thought I would call my OBGYN to see what I should do or if I could just have them check on me. Well I ended up having to leave a message then went about my morning. Around 1030 am the nurse called and just told me if I felt I needed to come in I could but it was up to me. As I was talking with her my mind made me think I felt movement so I told her never mind I was just nervous because of the scheduled cesarean just 2 days away. Friday morning came, I got up at 530 am with this overwhelming feeling that something wasn't right. I could just tell that something was off but I got ready and we headed to the hospital prepared and ready to have Ezra! 

 

My mom met us at the hospital, I checked in down stairs, then my mom, boyfriend, and myself walked up laughing and joking to the birthing center. I got into my room, and did the usual stripped down to slip into the dreadful hospital gown. I got up on the bed laid back and waited for the nurse to prep me for delivery. Two nurses came in, and started going over procedure as she was putting the belt/heart monitor on me. As she is doing so I'm talking to my mom, no big deal, and the nurse says, well this little booger seems to be hiding and stubborn I can't find him on the monitor, has it ever been difficult before? She then says hang on let me get our doctor and the actual ultrasound so we can get a look at him. Still at this point I'm not thinking anything about what I was about to find out. 

 

In comes the doctor with her big fancy machine, at this point my mom and boyfriend are confused, as am I. The doctor puts the wand on my belly and all I remember her saying is this is your baby and this is babies heart, as you can see it's not moving, I'm so very sorry. 
I don't really remember much after that. I do remember rolling over on my side away from everyone and being in a wave of shock. I was stunned. My mom and boyfriend were still confused, asking questions, trying to comfort me and I just felt like I had left my body and was just lifeless. What happened next was lots of paperwork I had to sign, and I had to discuss my options to have him. 

 

All I remember is telling them to knock me out and drug me up so I didn't feel anything or see the birth. After I signed paperwork I literally remember nothing. I have no idea how I got down to surgery or what I did after I signed that paperwork just that I woke up in a different room surrounded by my family. When I woke up I really thought it was all a bad dream. I fully expected them to bring Ezra to me alive, I had high hopes that during delivery they were able to revive him. But the nurse came in to check on me and let me know how that if I wanted to see Ezra I could and that they had no idea as to why he passed, but by his appearance he had passed several days prior. (Remember I felt decreased movement earlier in the week). 
I agreed I wanted to see him, so they brought him in the room, and let me hold him and even dress him. The hospital I gave birth at even offered a photographer for free to take professional pictures of us, which i allowed and they turned out AMAZING! It sounds morbid at the time, but I am so glad I did them. Such beautiful pictures of Ezra. 
Here comes the hard part, the part people don't like to talk about. They had to switch me to a regular room, as I'm being rolled to the new room, a sound goes off in the hallway, followed by a birth announcement and prayer, along with every room I pass is a mother with a crying baby or proud dads and grand parents. Finally got to my room, got settled, and around 2 am I got to sleep. 

 

The next few days are some of the hardest days you'll face. Thank goodness for my amazing family and friends. That next day was literally filled with making funeral arrangements. Luckily my family stepped in and had everything taken care of, and my best friend set up a go fund me page to help raise funds for the funeral because something you never think about is planning a funeral or paying for one! 

 

We left that Sunday, I remember that day clear as day. When I discharged I somehow left at the same time another family was leaving WITH their baby in tow. We almost ended up in the same elevator as them but a kind nurse intervened when she saw what was happening and managed to get them on and closed the elevator door so I didn't have to get on with them. I was extremely thankful for that. She told me, unfortunately you'll have people who don't understand your loss, and will say amazingly stupid things. But know they care they just have no idea. And she was absolutely right. 

After that my sister drove me to my moms, where I stayed for almost a week. Upon discharge I was able to get on an antidepressant and anxiety medication along with a therapy appointment. That helped me with the loss a ton! The funeral was Tuesday. Thankfully because of the go fund me page and a few donations, We were able to get everything covered. That first week home was a blur. It was painful walking in our house knowing the last time I was there was the day I delivered Ezra, that I was suppose to come home with him, that everything was set up and ready for him. I did a lot of crying, and a lot of sleeping. Those first few months I did rather well, I had moments I would just cry, but I had a 3 year old son who needed me, and I needed him. He kept me busy and I started pouring myself out through my Facebook and blogging. I found groups that were full of grieving moms just like me, and the more I shared about Ezra the closer to him I felt. Sharing him keeps his memory alive to me, and I love talking about him. 
Don't get me wrong those first few weeks after I lost him I was angry. I was mad at God for taking him from us, without reason, he was just gone. That I carried him for 9 full months, I took care of myself, I went to all my appointments, and I still lost him. I held on to that anger for a long while. But after therapy and connecting with other grieving moms I learned to deal with it, you'll always carry the grief with you, you'll always love that child, and you'll never forget them. They are apart of you. Give yourself time to grieve, time to feel the sadness, scream out loud, do you! Take as long as you need grieving has no timeline, and it can strike you at the most random times. Let yourself feel it, cry and embrace those times of sadness. 
You will have good days, and bad days. 
Fast forward, after many months and false pregnancy tests, we got pregnant in august of 2017 with our rainbow girl that I am currently 27 weeks pregnant with. It's a scary journey, life after loss, but we live Day by day, blessed by this pregnancy and praying that she makes a safe arrival in May. I could share so much more but for the sake of not writing a novel, this is most of my story. I have shared with many and will continue to do so. Ezra has touched so many hearts, and it brings me great joy to share him.
-Kelli

Andrea's Story

I turned 50 in August 2017 so my story actually began about twenty-three years ago. The pain, sorrow and despair that felt like my constant companions for a season have long since dissipated; but my prayer is that even now, after so many years have passed, my experience might bring hope and healing to those who have suffered the loss of a child.

I'll begin my story at the end by sharing that I am the mother of four unbelievably phenomenal human beings:  Tyler (21), Darcy (19), Peyton (17), and Sawyer (14). Anyone looking at the math would think that my husband and I had smooth sailing as we sought to begin and then grow our family, but nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, on the way to having these four extraordinary kids, I also experienced the loss of nine others through miscarriage.

My husband and I lived in a small town in Tennessee when our reproductive issues began. We’d been married for about two years and the time felt right for us to begin our family, as many young couples do. In due course I found myself pregnant and everything was picture-perfect until about the tenth week when I began spotting and cramping. I rushed to my doctor’s office and the nurse drew blood and told me to go home and keep my feet up, but the results of my blood test confirmed that my baby was gone.  I still have a hard time describing how it felt to be told that the baby I’d been carrying inside of me was no longer living. I’d been pregnant just a moment ago, and now I wasn’t.  As crazy as it sounds, I remember feeling embarrassed, not knowing how to begin sharing our news with people.  And what was worse was the feeling of guilt that I carried around inside me for weeks because—full disclosure—the truth is I had been terrified when I found out I was pregnant. I was young, I’d never been particularly good with babies, and I didn’t feel at all confident about the prospect of becoming a mother. So the physical pain I experienced as my body went through the motions of expelling the fetus was nothing compared to the emotional pain I felt, believing that I had somehow brought this tragedy upon myself and my husband. I was to blame.

So you can imagine the pure, unadulterated joy I felt when I found myself pregnant not long after I’d recovered from my first miscarriage and my doctor gave my husband and I the green light to begin trying again. Praise God for redemption! I resolved to not take this beautiful gift for granted, and we celebrated the new life that was growing inside of me. Until I began spotting and cramping again around the 11th week. Now as I said, we lived in a small town, and my small-town doctor adhered to the belief that miscarriages were simply statistical probabilities (which is actually entirely true), so it took our repeating this scenario for a third time before he decided that there might be a problem worth exploring. So after discussing our options, my husband and I were sent to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for genetic testing.

As it turned out, I had a condition known as a “balanced translocation.” The way this condition manifested itself in me was for part of one chromosome in one pair to break off and attach itself to a chromosome in another pair so that, even though all of the genetic material required for normal growth of an embryo was present, when my cells would divide to create reproductive cells, those cells would have either missing or extra genetic material and would trigger what is known in the medical community as a "spontaneous abortion.” As it was explained to us, there was no way to know--each time I conceived--whether or not the translocation would occur during cell division, so we were never told that I would not be able to successfully carry a child to term (which would explain the four perfectly healthy kids God blessed my husband and me with); but the odds sure didn't feel like they were in my favor. I vividly recall the genetic specialist telling us that the chance of my delivering a baby with significant congenital defects was 80% if I went to term. I don't have to tell you how overwhelming it felt to hear that statistic, but I also remember my husband being completely at peace and reminding me that God would be at work in our lives no matter what.

I also remember feeling relief because FOR ONCE we had an explanation! I praise God even all these years later for answering our prayer of, “Why God? Why? Why does this keep happening?” Prior to my diagnosis, I am not even sure how I had the strength to keep trying because each miscarriage was extremely painful and I felt 100% responsible for my inability to prevent each loss. I can remember lying in bed in absolute agony, both physically and emotionally. I was very depressed and unhappy and anxious, needless to say. But I've always marveled that no sooner did we get this diagnosis than I found myself pregnant again--and still pregnant after twelve weeks! Soon after, Tyler was born!

Since this has gotten so lengthy, I will try to summarize the rest of my story. I had two more miscarriages after Tyler was born (bringing the total to five at that point) and then got pregnant with our first daughter, Darcy. Because she was such an easy baby we didn’t wait as long as we normally would to begin trying again, expecting to lose some time due to my medical condition. But lo and behold, my very next pregnancy resulted in our daughter, Peyton.

Now I can't really recall if my husband and I had ever truly discussed how many kids we wanted, but even after our third child was born we didn’t feel that sense of, “We’re done; our family is complete.” But sadly, I suffered four miscarriages back-to-back over the next couple of years and it was the fourth that nearly did me in. I won't get too graphic, but it's the only time I feared for my life, and the only time I had to be rushed to the hospital because I had lost so much blood. At that point my husband said, "I can't lose you, the kids need their mother," etc., and we decided that God was telling us that our family was indeed complete. I laugh to this day about how we apparently thought that just making the decision to stop having kids would prevent me from getting pregnant—infertility was never an issue. But when I got pregnant for the 13th time, there was some trepidation that my health could be in real jeopardy and we walked on eggshells and prayed for my life. I honestly think at that point I'd given up the idea that any more pregnancies could be successful, especially given what I'd been through with my final miscarriage. So when twelve weeks came and then thirteen weeks and then fourteen and it became clear that this baby was hanging on, I can't even describe what a gift that was. It's why our son, Sawyer, is so special to us--not only is he "the baby," but in so many ways he really did feel like a miracle baby after what we'd been through. And after getting two sisters, Tyler was SO thrilled to have a brother!!

I am so grateful to God that he blessed my husband and me with such a blissfully happy ending to our story, but my heart grieves for those whose story is still being written and who are grappling with pain, heartache, and loss. As I close, I’d love to share the verse that I clung to when we were in our season of despair. It’s found in Proverbs 13:12 and it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” While for us hope was deferred time and time again, God fulfilled the longing of our hearts in a miraculous way and it is my prayer that anyone reading this will see their longing fulfilled in just the same way.

-Andrea

jean,joan,jane

Jean, Jane and Joan's Story

My mother turned 80 two years ago. Her birthday is on Groundhog’s Day, February 2,
and that year my three siblings and I were scattered all across the country and were
unable to be with her on her special day. However, we made a group call that night,
sang Happy Birthday to her on the phone (It sounded terrible!), and shared with her our
plan to celebrate her birthday on Memorial Day weekend. Our gift to her that year was
going to be a reunion tour of special landmarks in Mom’s life. We wanted to go as a
family to the places where she grew up and went to school. We wanted to visit the site
of her father’s barber shop in Nashville and the house where her parents lived after she
married and left home. We wanted to visit the duplex where Mom and Dad lived when
they were students at Tennessee Tech. We wanted to visit the cemeteries that figured
prominently in the life of our family. And, most of all, we wanted to hear Mom’s stories
about all of these places. Mom loved the idea, and it promised to be a great experience
for all of us.

The two days could not have gone better. We took hundreds of pictures, told and
listened to countless stories, and shared the priceless treasure of our collective
memories. Kim, Karl, Karen and I soon realized that what began as a gift we wanted to
give Mom had almost immediately become Mom’s gift to us. The final stop on our two-day memory tour was perfect. I don’t think that any great amount of thought had gone into that, but it was still perfect. We drove back to Cookeville from Gainesboro, TN, and visited the grave of our triplet sisters: Jean, Jane and Joan. They were born and died on July 19, 1959, when I was just two years old and while Mom and Dad were still in college. We all stood around the grave that afternoon –three generations of us – and Mom and Dad talked about the birth and death of our
sisters in calm, gentle, peaceful and heartfelt detail. Dad talked about how helpless he
felt in trying to locate the doctor when Mom went into labor. Mom talked about how
alone she felt by herself in a cold hospital room – back in the days before birth was
seen as a family experience and husbands were welcomed into the hospital room with
mother and child. She told about the terrible experience of hearing the nurse walking down the long hall to her room to tell her that another one of her daughters had died. Mom and Dad both described the next days and months: the funeral, their families, the gravesite. They
didn’t speak with the jagged pain of a recent tragedy, but with the perspective and peace that has come through decades of carrying my sisters gently in their
hearts.

That day at the grave of Jean, Jane and Joan, the conversation morphed from 1959 to the 1970s. My sister Kim, who was born in 1961, remembered how a friend of hers would sometimes tell her, “Kim, you realize that if the triplets had lived, you probably never would have been born.” We all smiled that day as we watched the way that observation hit Karl and Karen – born in 1964 – and the children of all my siblings. “If the triplets had lived . . . .” The grave of Jean, Jane and Joan was the perfect place to end our memory tour for Mom’s 80th birthday. There we were reminded that Mom and Dad have climbed enormous mountains and weathered incredible storms in their lives – more than any of their four living children know. There we connected with some of the
deepest mysteries of our own birth, life and death. There we had a family reunion with
our sisters who are already “with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). Perhaps most important of
all, there we witnessed God’s faithfulness to the McLarty family through all these years
and were reminded that “neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the
love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

-Bruce