This story is told by my precious cousin Kate (she is married to my first cousin Rob). We have a HUGE family that is oh-so-tight. As I think about the last year and several year of our lives, the birth of Audria Joy ranks up there as one of life’s sweetest blessings. I am so grateful for Kate’s courage to tell you this story. It is truly heart-wrenching. If you are pregnant, please proceed with caution and maybe have someone read first for you. I know Kate and Rob want their story used for God’s glory. Please pass it along to others that are beyond despair in their journey as parents or in life. To give them hope. Their JOY is coming and God loves them too.
Our journey began on May 8th 2006 after a year and a half of marriage. We were expecting our first baby, a little girl. Months of renovation and redecorating had gone into getting ready for her arrival and at 35 weeks pregnant, we were ready for anything. Ever the organized list maker, I scrambled around that morning between contractions, putting sheets on the guest bed for my mom and ironing little pink dresses, just in case this was really it. The Dr. had told us on the phone when the pains started the night before that at 35 weeks she would be just fine and I felt reassured and excited that we might get to hold our baby so soon.
We headed for the hospital around 8:30 to make his first appointment with bags packed and the feeling that something was going to happen that day. I took one last look at her finished nursery and smiled with the thought that the next time I saw it I would be holding her. When we got to the Dr’s office I was still having contractions and in a good bit of pain. They put me in a room and told me he wanted to do an ultrasound and check for dilation. The nurse put the heart rate monitor on my belly and began searching for that assuring rhythm. She couldn’t find the right spot and we could tell she was getting a little uneasy. I put my hands on my belly protectively as our Dr. came in and said the usual, “What can I do for you today”, with a smile. Through a strained smile I said, “I just want to make sure she is o.k.”.
We looked anxiously at the monitor as the picture of our daughter appeared. I felt my husband’s grip tighten and heard a sigh escape the Dr’s lips. “There she is!”, I said with relief… still silence…and then the words that would forever change us… “Kate, I am so quiet because, I can’t find a heartbeat”, his voice was choked with emotion. I uttered a gut wrenching cry as I curled up against Rob’s chest and shook with sobs and the most pain I had ever felt. “No!, God NO!” This could not be happening. There is a blur surrounding the rest of that day.
Holding hands we made our way to the hospital delivery room and gave birth to our 5 lb. little girl. She was beautiful and perfect and still. No cry… nothing. I held her and held her and held her until she started to get cold. I remember that so well saying, “She’s getting cold” and looking for a way to warm her but there wasn’t any. Finally the nurse told me they needed to take her and I knew that I would never hold her again in this life. That was the most emptiness I have ever felt. Rob just held me as we both sobbed and shared the pain of the death of a life and the death of all of our dreams. Our wonderful Dr. insisted that I be released that day and we headed back to our home silently holding hands, too numb to cry for the moment.
The next few days, weeks and months were a haze. I escaped at times with sleep, and my husband endured my fits of anger, grief, and emotion far beyond what I thought was possible. He stuck by me and encouraged me and shook me when I needed it. He always knew when to hold me and when to tell me to be strong. I didn’t know it was possible to feel that angry at God and yet feel the need for Him so desperately in the same instant. I wore out my Bible and spent hours praying and pleading for answers as I sat in her rocking chair hugging the little pink bunny that Natalie’s Aunt had given me for her. No answer came, and the months ahead would try everything I knew about my marriage and my God to the limit.
After a few months, we decided to try again for more children. We wanted a family so badly and even though it was hard to risk it again we thought it would help the healing in some way. After six months, I still was not pregnant and my hormones were out of whack to boot. I didn’t know how much longer I could stand the pain of seeing other moms and their children having what I wanted so much and should be enjoying. I got very angry and consumed with this. How could God do this to me? I was married and had been so happy. Why me? Everywhere I went; pregnant women and glowing new moms pushing strollers seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. I found myself glancing at their left hand to see if they were married. I was mad if they were and even angrier if they weren’t. I looked in the mirror and saw someone who looked old and tired. My bitterness was affecting me physically as well as emotionally. I hurt all over and didn’t know why. I had abandoned all the things that I needed to hold dear, pushing God aside except to yell a prayer at him occasionally.
After a few more months of not conceiving, we concluded that something must be wrong and sought help from our OB. I don’t know where we would be without this kind, loving, and Godly man. He has cried with us and rejoiced with us every step of the way, and has become so much more than a physician. He is a true friend. With his help, I was diagnosed with PCOS in Feb of 2007. We had finally figured out the problem, but now I felt like less of a woman. My body wouldn’t work right, and I was unlikely to conceive without help from medication. The prospect of the unknown was a little daunting, and I wanted to give up on the whole thing.
We continued counseling with those in our church and through verbalizing feelings made progress towards some sort of normal. Over the next few months, I began investing in other people around me including my husband. I started making To Do lists again, something I hadn’t had the energy for in a long time. As I began looking outside of myself, my heart slowly began to heal. I felt God’s grace and His love again in my inmost being. Rob and I were able to enjoy just being together again and I was able to put my desire for children in the proper place. We had several preschool age kids in our neighborhood that God sent tromping down to my house one warm spring day. I was working in my garden and they came up and asked if I had any kids. I told them yes I had a daughter named Natalie, but that she was in heaven now. From that day on they came almost every day. I would feed them and play with them and they would ask about Natalie and about God. They became quite a fixture in our home and even spent time playing in Natalie’s room. Having them around helped me heal another portion of my heart. Pouring my love into someone else was what I needed.
We began to think that maybe our family may have to come through adoption but after 6 months of medication to regulate my cycle, we found out we were expecting again. At around twelve weeks the ultrasound confirmed it was a boy this time and I was glad. I didn’t want to compare this baby to Natalie in any way or feel like I was merely replacing what I had lost. I was grateful that God had waited until I was really ready to except another blessing and it wasn’t just a band aid on a fresh wound. We moved out to a little house in the country and started preparing for this new little life. At 38 weeks and 2 days, on March 31st 2008 our son Bo was born.
He was born with his eyes wide open and his cries were like angels singing to our ears. Holding him and seeing him look back at me for the first time was indescribably sweet. I was overflowing. Many more tears were shed that day; tears of joy and relief. We shed tears with family and friends and even tears with the sweet doctor who had delivered both of our children. With the help of medication we conceived again about a year later.
Our second son Caleb was born at 37 weeks 6 days, on March 7th 2010 and we felt complete. I knew with the struggles I had getting pregnant that it was unlikely to happen without medication and we figured if God wanted to give us more children then He would do it, and if not, we were content
He wasn’t done blessing us. In March 2011 we found out we were expecting yet again. My pregnancy got off to a rocky start with a bout of bleeding and at one point I thought I was miscarrying. I thought, this must be a girl and felt a little anxious right from the start. I wanted a boy; I didn’t want to reopen those wounds and have to go there again. In the summer we found out that we were indeed having a girl and I was going to have to face this. I began painting flowers on the nursery walls as pink began to slowly creep into our house. The bleeding stopped just as Dr. said it would and the pregnancy began to feel more normal. Praise the Lord, little girl moved constantly! I froze meals and washed clothes and prepared in my usual way for her impending arrival. The boys were so excited and Bo especially knew that his little sis was not far off.
At 37 weeks and 1 day I went into labor. At 3:15a.m. contractions started and at 5:19a.m., about five minutes after flying into the hospital on two wheels, our daughter Audria Joy was born. She looked so much like her sister. I felt full of joy and gratefulness as I held her for the first time. It was a whirlwind of a delivery and our sweet Dr. hadn’t even made it in time. I was holding her when he came in looking a little sleepy, but smiling from ear to ear. He held her for a minute and then said he would check in later in the morning. A few minutes later, Rob noticed a nurse hustle in and collect the placenta that had been discarded after delivery. He thought briefly that it seemed a bit strange, but then brushed it off. We were taken upstairs to our recovery room and Audri was taken to the nursery for awhile. Rob and I were happily making phone calls to family and best friends and enjoying this special time together. I couldn’t wait to see her and when the door opened I thought they were bringing me my baby, but it was just the pediatrician making his rounds.
He sat down on the bed and I knew by his expression something wasn’t quite right. He said that he had some concerns; some of her features and lack of responsiveness led him to believe that she might have Down syndrome. I felt like I had been slapped. I tried to stifle the panic that was rising in my chest and looked at Rob almost pleading for him to tell me this was ridiculous. He just squeezed my hand tighter. I wanted my daughter, but at the same time, I wanted to run out of that hospital and not look back. It was too frightening. I wanted my boys, but when they arrived with my parents a few minutes later, I just started crying. This was all so different than I had imagined. I felt like I had let everyone down again and began running through the list of things I could have done better during my pregnancy. At the same time, I knew that this was a chromosome and was not treatable or preventable. The nurse brought our little girl in a few minutes later and I was afraid to look at her. As much as I wanted to hold her, it hurt too badly.
Bo immediately ran over to see her and looked back at me with shining eyes. He was so proud of his little sister and at 3 ½ was a big boy and wanted to hold her. I cried new tears as I saw my little boy become a big brother again. The unconditional love that was written all over his face taught me volumes in that instant. Caleb ran around loudly calling “Dia, Dia” …she had a nickname already. My whole family was together and it was bittersweet. During the rest of the day we hugged family members and cried. I cuddled my daughter and wanted to protect her from all of this. She began to improve throughout the day as we would be encouraged by one Dr. and then set back by another. My OB checked in again later and we were so pleased to see him. He said that he had felt concerns in the few minutes that he had held her, and we were crushed again just when we had felt some glimmers of hope. They just weren’t sure and wanted to do some chromosome tests to confirm one way or another. The tests would take two weeks to get back. We would have to wait.
It was a rollercoaster of emotions. There were tears and prayers overflowing as we pleaded and tried to accept at the same time. I thought about how many times I had avoided looking at those sweet boys who bag my groceries at Kroger every week. The fear of facing that reality had kept me guarded and yet here I was, forced to face it and knowing that my life would never be the same no matter what. In those two weeks my daughter changed and so did my heart. I can never again see someone with a disability the same way. I realized how often during the day I could be praying for other people. So often I am consumed with my own perfect little life that the struggles of others are too dampening to think about. “Weeping with those who weep” is something we are asked to do and I understand that more than ever now. The two times in my life that have been the darkest have also been the times that God has brought me closest to Himself. After those long two weeks we got a call from the pediatrician telling us that everything had come back completely normal and our daughter was just fine. More tears of relief and gratefulness this time as we were overwhelmed by God’s grace.
I look at my three children and am so blessed by this journey. Through the loss of Natalie, Rob and I have learned so much and grown closer together. Two people accepted Christ through conversations that came about because of her death, one being my grandmother a few days before she died herself. I can honestly say now that I am grateful for the refining fire in my life. God has given me peace in the midst of uncertainty and I have seen so many blessings come out of pain. At first we could only see loss…but God brought wholeness and healing. His gift was more joy than I thought imaginable. I can truly praise Him from “Whom all blessings flow!”
Thanks again to Kate (and my precious cousin Rob) for your courage to share something so personal and we REJOICE with you for the birth of Audria Joy!
If Kate’s story has touched you in some way, please leave her a note of encouragement here or feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to contact her personally.