Where do I begin?
This may be one of the hardest blog posts I write, but one I need to write for myself, and hopefully as an honest voice to others who have gone through this. There are so many.
January 21st is my baby’s 11th birthday. January 15th is my baby’s 11th anniversary of her going to Heaven. My baby passed away at just under 6 months gestation. It took 6 days for us to deliver our stillborn baby.
This is our story of the greatest grief, and yet what we still consider one of the greatest gifts that our Loving God has ever given us.
My husband and I never planned or expected to be pregnant at the ages of 45 (me) and 46 (him). Our family was complete, as far as we were concerned. We had 3 biological children and 2 adopted children. They were 11 years old, 15, 17, 17 ½, and 18 at the time we found ourselves pregnant. The oldest was a prodigal at that time and had moved out on her 18th birthday, which had caused us much heartache and grief. She would have barely any contact with us for the next 3 years, but we kept hearing about her, and the downward spiral she was on, away from God & us, and family.
So, here in the midst of our deep grief and heartache, we found ourselves pregnant, and expecting new life. We could not keep the smiles off our faces, even in the midst of all the turmoil we were feeling. How in the world were we going to do this? We would ask ourselves still smiling over the craziness of it all. We felt blessed! Like God had seen our heartache over our prodigal daughter, and had given us a gift to remind us of Joy.
Our other children, when they heard the news, were mixed in their emotions, but slowly came to acceptance and excitement over the thought of a new sibling. Well, all except my 15 year old son, who pretty much thought we were crazy throughout, as if we had been trying to get pregnant, which we were not. We were 100% totally surprised by this event, and simply attributed it to God’s will, and a glorious unexpected gift.
The pregnancy was pretty good, and normal, with my normal nausea and all day morning sickness during the first trimester. The Obstetrician took extra care of me, as a “high-risk” pregnancy due to my age. We had never in any of my other 3 pregnancies wanted to know the sex of the baby, as we thought it was more fun to be surprised. This time, since we had to start all over again with baby equipment, nursery, clothes, etc… we wanted to know, but they could never get an absolutely clear picture. We were told it looks like a boy! (non-definite, so we didn’t bank on it) We had already decided on the name Gabriel for a boy, although we hadn’t yet decided on a middle name. We also had a girls name picked out, both first and middle name, Victoria Grace.
All looked good until after I passed the 5th month. January came and I had a regular appointment on the 8th, in the late afternoon. My regular appointments usually had a sonogram involved due to the high risk factor. This time, my Doctor was totally alarmed by what she saw and wanted us to immediately get up to a specialist an hour and a half away. There was no way we could make that trip in that time… we had about an hour to get up there before they closed, but it takes an hour and a half and this was also at rush hour timing. She said, ok, but first thing in the morning, be up there by 8. She told us she was worried it was a trisomy 18 from things she saw on the sonogram. We had very low amniotic fluid, and she wanted them to run some tests to determine what the problem was.
We went home and immediately called some close friends and family and asked them to pray. We prayed too that God would be with our baby, and take care of “him.” We also got on the internet to look up exactly what a trisomy 18 was, and were met with a very dire load of information. But we also saw some things that gave us hope. Usually a trisomy baby has too much amniotic fluid, not too little. And a trisomy 18 baby usually had a 2 or 3 chamber heart, but our baby had a good 4 chamber heart. There were head measurements and foot measurements (like a club foot) that fit the diagnosis, but these could also be other things, so we tried to have hope as we went to the appointment the next morning. We also had a resolve, that God was in control, and we would deal with the whatevers as they came.
The next morning, as we arrived at the specialists, we had another sonogram, and our baby was moving well, and heartbeat was as strong as ever. At least to us. During the sonogram, as I watched my baby, who I was regularly feeling move by this time in the pregnancy, although my husband was yet to feel that, I couldn’t take my eyes off that screen. The baby looked so strong and healthy. Moving so much as I watched! The Dr. taking the sonogram looked at us, and said, who told you this was a boy? There is no doubt this baby is a girl!
The face of my baby was “looking” right at the screen, and while I watched… the baby winked at me, causing me to laugh out loud! I said to my husband, “Did you see that?” but sadly he had not, as he had turned away for an instant. But the nurse saw it and laughed with me and said, yes, sometimes they do that.
I have always been comforted that my baby was sending me a message right there, that don’t worry about her, she will be alright mommy! I will never forget that little wink.
We submitted to an amniocentesis, which I always swore I’d never have. And I probably wouldn’t have for any other reason but to test for this trisomy 18. Of course their reasoning was that if it came back positive, we could choose to abort the baby, which they said in so-many-ways, but we wouldn’t even consider that we told them. Our baby was our baby whether she lived an hour, or a day, or a year. (Most trisomy 18 babies only live hours after birth, or a few days, if they are even live born at all, which many are not. Some can live for a year or so, and in some cases, 5-10 years, or rarer still 20’s – 30’s, but it is always a very limited lifespan with lots of challenges and complications.)
We would accept her whatever the situation, and love her completely.
The test would take a week or so to come back, they said, and they sent us home. Home to worry, and pray, and have all those we knew pray too.
On January 15th, I was taking my firstborn child to a college visit. This was her second-choice college, but she hadn’t heard back from the first choice yet, so she was taking the tour. (She did get excepted by the 1st choice later on, and that is where she went & graduated from.) This daughter would be turning 18 in a month, and graduating from high school later that spring. She was shocked when she first heard the news of her parent’s pregnancy, but had quickly come around in excitement and anticipation of a new baby, especially hearing now that it was a sister.
As we were preparing to go to the college, about an hour and a half away from home, we were talking to my husband, and I was lying across the bed while he and my daughter were sitting on the bed discussing something. I felt the baby move a giant move, like a somersault, it felt like, so I quickly tried to press my belly against my husband’s back so he could finally feel the movement. He didn’t feel anything, and later, I sadly realized that this was the last movement I ever felt of the baby.
The busyness of the day kept me from thinking about it, although I felt many braxton-hicks contractions that day, I know I never felt another movement. I kept thinking, Oh, its because we are doing so much walking, and dealing with all the college information, and I just haven’t noticed…. But that late afternoon, when we returned home and I tried to take notice, I realized it had been all day that I hadn’t really felt anything. I called the Dr’s office, and told them, and they said to drink some Mountain Dew or something to stimulate the movement and pay attention all evening. Nothing.
That same evening, I got a call from the specialist’s office, and they informed us that the test for the Trisomy-18 had come back negative, meaning there was no chromosomal abnormality.
The next morning, my Dr’s office took me right in, and took the sonogram… and instantly I knew. They didn’t say anything… but looking at the screen told the truth to me immediately. I think my husband took a bit longer to take the truth in, but not by much. Our baby girl had already gone to be with Jesus.
My Doctor confirmed it and she hugged me tight. The nurse with her cried with us. They gave us some information, and explained what would happen next. We would have to check in to the hospital to be induced. This could happen quickly, or it could take some time. I have asthma, so they have to use a slower acting inducement drug. We didn’t have to check in immediately, but within the next couple days.
We knew we would need a day to get our bearings, and plan for what was ahead of us, so we took the rest of that day and the next to notify loved ones and make funeral arrangements.
We also had been in the process of selling a pop-up camper for months, knowing we needed the extra cash to purchase all the equipment a new baby needed since ours had long been given away, but although we had had callers, and an occasional looker, no one ever decided to buy. We weren’t asking too much for it, and it was in really great condition so we couldn’t understand why it had never sold.
That very day, the afternoon of us returning from the Dr’s office with such a sad burden on our hearts, a man called extremely interested in our camper. He wanted to see it the next day. I knew without a doubt, this man was going to buy it. And he did. God’s grace, selling it in perfect timing, so we could afford a funeral for our baby. And so we wouldn’t have purchased all the paraphernalia for a baby, and then have to face that every day with no baby to use it with.
So, the day our little baby, Victoria Grace, went to Heaven was January 15th. That was a Monday, and the next morning, Tuesday, was when it was confirmed. Wednesday we went to the funeral home and made arrangements, and they were so kind. We decided to have our little one cremated. I knew I personally couldn’t put her in a coffin and bury her in the ground, but having that little urn with me would be important for me. Others who have been through this take the opposite approach, and that is fine. You have to do what is most important to you at this time, and not let others talk you out of what your heart of hearts tells you is right for you.
The funeral home also offered special jewelry where a small bit of cremains can be placed inside, and I knew this was something that would minister to my heart, and so I got a little heart necklace. My husband decided he wanted a man’s cross necklace. Both of us still cherish those special memento’s of our little princess, and I know they aided in our healing. We both wore them constantly over the next couple years, and still to this day, if there is a special family occasion, I wear my little heart, and under his shirt, my husband will have on his cross. We don’t even discuss it, its just who we are.
All the arrangements were made. I can’t remember much of that, but I remember relying on God’s grace and strength to carry me through, and He did. The funeral director knew our situation, and told us to give him a call when we delivered and had had our time with our baby, and they would come and pick her up.
Thursday morning, we arrived at the hospital and checked in. They put us in a special room, at the far end of the hall, so we wouldn’t be “disturbed” by other mother’s giving birth to their babies. They allowed my husband to stay with me for the duration. The inducement drug was given, but it would take 4 days for the labor & delivery to be completed. It wasn’t a hard labor, by any means. It just had to go slow due to my asthma.
My nearly-18 year old would bring all her brother’s and sisters to visit me, since she could drive. And she and her younger 17 year old sister took care of things at home, getting the boys to their practices, and cooking meals and such. I was so proud of all of them.
The oldest, who was now almost 19, was pregnant and newly married. We didn’t know how to reach her, or where she was, so there was no way to notify her. We included her in the funeral notice, and allowed for the possibility that she would come to the memorial service when it happened. It was a very broken time for our family, and amidst all the emotional turmoil that was going on, I worried over how to reach out to her without alienating all the younger siblings, who were also hurt and angry over their sister’s decisions over the past year. We just left it all in God’s hands, and dealt with the situation in front of us.
Our beautiful daughter was born on the afternoon of Sunday, January 21st. Very tiny and fragile, especially since she had been gone physically for 6 days now. Victoria weighed 1 lb, 9 ounces, and was just 13 inches long. She was perfect to us, and it was hard to see any reason why she had passed away. The doctors too could not see any obvious reason, and said we could have an autopsy if we wanted, but we didn’t. It wouldn’t bring her back, and they said it may not tell us anything, so why go though that. I will get my answers one day. If I still need them.
We are so very thankful for the tender care we received in the hospital by all the staff. They have a wonderful process in place for bereaved parents, and we were able to hold our baby as long as we wanted. The nurses took hand prints and feet prints of our precious little one, dressed her in a preemie doll sized dress, took specialized pictures of her, and even did a plaster cast of her feet in a heart mold for us to treasure.
They also did a special inked feet print in the back of my Bible, at my request. They gave us a scrapbook with all these things in them, and poems, and memorial birth documents, even a clip of Victoria’s hair, all of which I treasure greatly. They truly cared for us in our lowest time, making sure that whatever we wanted to do, concerning memorializing our baby, it was carried out to the best of their ability. I am forever grateful for that, especially since hearing how others, especially some of my older friends were treated in days gone by, going through this same situation.
We said goodbye to our baby over the next 24 hours, and friends & family came and said their goodbyes too. I have one beautiful, special moment that makes me smile above the grief we were feeling, a moment that I treasure. My husband and I had some special alone time with our little Tori, and I was holding her, and singing to her. I was trying so hard to memorize her face, even though we had taken tons of pictures, I still couldn’t get it to “click” on keeping her little face in my memory, knowing our time together was about to end. I expressed this in frustration to my husband, saying, she doesn’t look like any of the other 3 (biological) babies…. I can’t see it. Then I said to my husband, well, she has your nose. Then after a few seconds of studying her face, I said. She has your eyes. Then as it started to dawn on me, I said more excitedly, she has your chin, she has your forehead! She is you! And it is true, she looked just like my husband. You see, the other 3 birth children had all looked like me, or my side of the family. Victoria was the spitting image of her father! Which made him cry happy tears, and she is now forever cemented in my memory-banks, just by looking at my husband.
It was time to say our final goodbye. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The funeral home had been called, and was waiting to pick up the body. It was time for us to be discharged.
My husband had one special thing that the funeral home had offered and he had immediately known he had to do for his own closure and fatherly duty to be fulfilled in his own heart. He met them at the funeral home the following day, and actually carried his little girl down to the crematorium, kissed her lovingly goodbye, and placed her on the special box in the cremation chamber. That is something I could never have done, but it was extremely meaningful and therapeutic to him.
My mother and younger sister had come down to support us during the labor & delivery, while my older sister and brother & his wife were coming down later in the week. Both my brother and my older sister are ordained ministers, so we had asked my brother to do the funeral for us, and my sister to help in some parts, and lead a congregational prayer. They both did an excellent job.
I spent the next few days at home scrapbooking every good picture I had of my little Tori Grace. I wanted to have something to memorialize her by, and to have at her service. We also lovestakingly but painfully planned her service. The obituary was placed in the paper. We had 2 songs planned for the service, “Held,” by Natalie Grant, and “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” by Ira Stanphill. My brother gave the message, honoring the most important request of ours, of making sure the Gospel was presented. I truly wanted my little girl to have some ‘fruit’ in Heaven, and I still do.
My grief was unfathomable for the first year or two, but God held me so tangibly during that time. Sometimes the pain was so real, physical almost. My arms truly ached to hold my baby. I found a little doll baby that had a look of pure joy on her face, which would remind me that she was experiencing Joy in Heaven. The doll baby was actually about the same size as my little one, although much plumper. I held that baby doll so often, and cried holding her… (Don’t worry, they told me that was perfectly normal.) I even set up a little bassinet and would place the baby doll in it, surrounded by the little toys and stuffed animals we had gotten for our little Victoria, and the tiny urn of cremains. I think the kids worried about me; maybe my husband too, but I HAD to do this.
It was part of my healing, I know.
One of the greatest things that I know was God given in those first few days was this question that came strongly into my mind. “Knowing that Victoria had already spent days in the arms of her Savior, would I bring her back if I could?” Immediately upon hearing this question, I think posed by the Holy Spirit in my mind, I answered back, “No! I would never be that selfish.” And on that truth I rested for the duration of my grief.
I missed her so; still do! But knowing that this little precious gift had gone from my womb into the arms of our Savior gave me such peace. Knowing that she was real… I had felt her move and kick inside of me… and that I would see her again in time, that is where my comfort is. Knowing that, especially in those first few weeks and months, I would tell Jesus to kiss her for me, and hug her for me, and tell her we loved her… those uplifted prayers, and trusting that they were answered, would put an anguished smile on my face in the midst of my grief.
I still grieve, especially around this time of year, her birthday, but not like I used to. Eleven years in Heaven… wow! That’s to be celebrated. I am happy that my husband and I gave her life, even if we don’t get to enjoy it with her for a few more years… we are both comforted by the fact that she is enjoying MORE Life than we can even imagine. I am excited about meeting and receiving this precious gift one day, and for all of eternity.
I have a grandson, the son of my then prodigal daughter, who is just 6 months younger than my little Tori would be. He is my special heart, and he knows why. He is part of my healing. We didn’t get to “love on him” until just before he turned 2, when my prodigal returned home. My daughter will tell you, that knowing we had been through all of this was one of the stepping stones that began her turn-around.
I know that my little Tori’s life, short as it was on this earth, has a purpose. I was changed by her. My husband was changed by her. And I believe all of my children to different degrees were changed by their tiny little stillborn sister. There was power in this unexpected little gift that was given to us by a loving God.
I don’t fully understand why God allowed her to be stillborn, but I trust Him. My baby’s life has a purpose.
God has revealed to me some things, very personal things (too personal to share in this forum), of what this valley of grief was meant to accomplish in my own life, and that too will be fruit in Heaven for my little girl. Those are just private tidbits, meant to grow & accomplish some things in my life. I also live differently knowing my little girl is in Heaven and part of my “cloud of witnesses” and yes I do think our loved ones are in our own cloud of witnesses in Heaven. (Hebrews 12:1-2) It inspires me to live closer to Jesus believing they are peeking sometimes. 🙂
I think there are many more tidbits God will use concerning Tori in the lives of all of us who loved her. No ‘little life’ is really little. Whether you miscarried early, or late, gave birth to a stillborn, or got to love on your precious one for minutes, hours, days, or months… they are a great Gift. They are enjoying the Unspeakable Joys of Heaven with our Awesome Unspeakable Gift, Jesus.
We can go to them one day if we know Jesus as our personal Savior. Eternity with our ‘babies’ is something to Joy over. But we do still grieve down here. You never get fully over the loss of a child. I didn’t fully understand that until it happened to me. Thankfully, Jesus will wipe away all tears from our eyes one day.
In her memorial folder, given out at the memorial service, I had written a poem while I was in the hospital. I am not, nor ever have been, a poet, but this just poured out of the depths of my soul. It still helps me in my grief today.
We cannot hold our little girl,
But Jesus is holding her tightly!
We cannot kiss our little girl,
But Jesus is smothering her with kisses far sweeter!
Our arms and hearts ache with emptiness,
But Tori’s heart is full with Joy Unspeakable!
I also wrote this one early in the morning, driven out of bed to pen the words, knowing her body would be cremated later that day, and of my husband’s wish to be with his daughter till the last moment.
All of Heaven closed their eyes
As I took my selfish hour
And placed your small frame into the oven,
The fiery funeral pyre.
I could not give you to the grave,
That cold dark lonely earth.
I must have you always close to me
In heart, and cross, and urn.
The smallest of particles known to man
Are molecule and atom,
But I know there is one smaller still
That will not to ash burn.
It cannot be captured in a jar,
But is waiting up in Heaven.
The particles that make up your soul
Have already been taken.
For it was while my eyes were closed
That Eternity took her claim,
And left me cold and empty
And lying in the grave.
But I will have you back again
When God puts all together.
The molecule, the atom,
And the smallest particles of your soul,
That are separated for a time
Between Earth and Heavenly shore
Will rise to meet when Trumpet sounds
And God calls all His Home.
Then I will meet your Essence,
The part of you I could never hold.
© 2007-2018 LauraJSE All RIGHTS RESERVED