This is a story of how God poured out His grace in our lives in a tremendous way, completely transformed who we are and our view of Him, altered our future for all eternity, and blessed us more than we ever thought possible. This is the story of Grace. Our Grace. An experience we never would have chosen, but never want to give back. This is a story of pain and heartache, but also a story of joy and hope. And I pray that this story would bring glory to God and touch those of you who have experienced similar circumstances in your life or know someone who has.
As many of you know, over the years my husband and I have had two miscarriages, one stillbirth, three heathy children, and adopted one child. That’s our family in a nutshell. It has not been an easy journey, but it has been one very worth taking. Even a journey we would willing take all over again.
I’ll start at the beginning and try to make it as short as possible. We got married in January 2001. Jamie was finishing up college and I was working full time. We had no money… and I mean, no money. A year after we were married we decided to stop preventing pregnancy, but not try either. Just going to leave it in God’s hands. Ten months later I was pregnant. We were so nervous and excited. We went for our first doctor appointment and then told the family. A week later the Lord took our baby Home with him and my pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Our hearts were broken. It was the day before Thanksgiving and we were struggling. We decided to start trying again right away. A year later I was still not pregnant. A few months and an ovulation test later we were pregnant again. Our nervous, anxious hearts surrendered this baby to the Lord knowing it’s life was in His hands. After a dream pregnancy and delivery we held our precious daughter, Lorelei, in our arms and wept. I was ready… we were ready to do it again, right away.
Three months later we were pregnant again. This pregnancy started with a move to a different state as my husband took an associate pastor position. I started spotting and put myself on bedrest (or as close as I could get) the day we moved. I knew that if the Lord wanted to take this baby Home I couldn’t stop Him, and if I was still pregnant after we settled in I would find a good high risk OBGYN. A few weeks later, as far as I knew, I was still pregnant. The Lord directed me to the most amazing doctor. The baby had a heart beat and seemed to be perfectly healthy. We breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I was so excited! I had wanted to have my children as close in age as possible so they would grow up close together. Thirteen months apart seemed perfect to me. We settled into our new home and church enjoying our baby in our arms and our growing family. It was time for my 18 week ultrasound where we would find out if we were having a boy or a girl. I woke up that morning with a heavy heart. I felt the Lord whispering to me that this was not going to go as we had planned, but perfectly as He had planned. Little did I know He had whispered the same to my husband.
At the doctors office they took me back by myself to do the medical check-up part of the ultrasound and then they were going to bring Jamie back for the gender reveal. As soon as the ultrasound technician put the wand on my belly she quickly turned the computer screen away from me, and I knew. Something is wrong with my baby. Possibilities started pouring through my imagination. I knew we could handle raising a special needs child. We could even enjoy raising a special needs child.
The ultrasound technician called my doctor in. One glimpse at the screen and he said, “Amanda, we have a big problem. I need to get you to see a specialist right away. This is too big for me to handle.” I was so thankful for his blunt, humble honesty. They called Jamie back and started to show us what they had seen on the screen. Under-formed and missing internal organs, missing brain matter, serious issues with our baby’s development.
The next week we drove to the capitol to see the specialist. They did ultrasounds and tests and then told us they would inform us in a week. That week we had planned a vacation at the beach with family. It was a much needed distraction but also time to prepare our hearts and process. Our family knew everything we knew and were so kind and encouraging. Finally the results came back. Our child had a very rare genetic disorder. Unless the Lord chose to do a miracle this baby would not survive outside my womb. It made every moment beyond precious. I treasured and soaked in every kick and movement. I prayed continually all day, every day, that God would heal my baby. Jamie would lay his head on my belly to feel it’s kicks and soak them in as we would pray. Countless people were praying along with us.
Nine weeks later the doctor confronted me with a choice I never thought I would have to make. This baby was growing much faster than it should have been and I had no amniotic fluid. At a certain point it would become life threatening for me to carry this baby and we would have to decide when to take it’s life. When that time came we would have to do a c-section because the baby would be too large for me to deliver naturally. We couldn’t make such a heart wrenching decision! This was our baby! We discussed and prayed and decided that we would leave that decision up to the doctor. When he said it was time… it was time.
Day after day, week after week we had prayed continually. Weekly doctor appointments with no good news, long trips to the specialist where nothing new was determined. The Lord had not given us peace that He was going to heal our baby, but He had given us His presence. He went into every ultrasound with us and held us through it. His Spirit gave us strength and understanding of the hope He had in store for our precious child. And so we crawled up into our Father’s lap, buried our heads in His chest, and let Him comfort and carry us through. It was all we could do.
A week later I lay in bed while Jamie was getting ready for work. I had another doctors appointment that day. I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It had been a very long ten weeks. It was painful to be pregnant without amniotic fluid. I couldn’t enjoy or care for Lorelei as I had hoped for because I was always in pain. I couldn’t do anything. I was done!! I couldn’t handle it anymore. After Jamie left I laid there and cried begging God to do something, anything, because I couldn’t handle any more.
At the doctor that day we encountered a scenario that we had never imagined. I was going into early labor! We were so thankful that we wouldn’t have to decide to end our child’s life. I immediately went into preparations for delivery. My doctor had explained that because of the genetic disorder her body could fall apart during labor and that would kill me so we opted for a c-section. We may not get to have her with us for very long, but we wanted to hold her body whole. Through research we also learned that life outside my womb before death would be an agonizing experience for the baby. We started praying for a stillbirth. We knew our baby wouldn’t live long and we didn’t want to watch it suffer. We wanted our child to go from my womb to the arms of God. I didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so I bought a white crocheted blanket and a dear friend quickly crocheted me a baby hat to match.
Around midnight it was go time. We rushed to the hospital preparing for a c-section and praying for a stillbirth. Labor went too fast for the c- section and I had to deliver naturally. My heart was broken. But God was so good to us. Our daughter died during delivery. She didn’t suffer one second, but went straight to the arms of God. Her body stayed in tact so we were able to hold her and take pictures and have the closure we so desperately needed. After a scare the Lord preserved my life. Through it all He poured out His grace in our hearts in ways we could never have anticipated.
During the ten weeks of pregnancy after Grace’s diagnosis God’s people rallied around us. We had people praying for us daily all over the world. Our families held us close and walked through it with us. To be honest, I was never afraid. The entire time I had peace. I knew my God was in control. I knew His plan was perfect. I knew I could trust Him. God’s grace became tangible the day we held our baby girl. On the outside she was perfect in every way. Her tiny fingers and toes, her soft skin. Before she was born we had decided to name her Grace, just Grace, because of what God was revealing to us through her pregnancy. We wanted her name and her short life to be a testimony to our merciful, loving, Gracious God.
Two weeks from today we will celebrate her 13th birthday. Every year we celebrate her birthday as a family. We bake a cake, look through her pictures, read her story, and imagine what our family would be like if she had lived. We discuss what it would be like to grow up in heaven. The other children know they have a sister in heaven and it has made heaven more real to us all.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She is in my heart, a part of me. She always will be just like my other children are. Most days thoughts of her are sweet, but every once in a while I just need her. Holding my other children doesn’t calm the hurt in my heart and arms. I wish God would send her back down to me, just for a few minutes, so I could snuggle and kiss and love on her, then I would give her right back. I used to hate those days, but they have become precious to me. Over the years memories have faded. I forget so much of that experience that sometimes I wonder if it was all a dream. But then the hard days hit and it makes her real to me again. That makes the pain precious. Someday I will hold her in my arms in the presence of our Savior. Until then, my heart holds her memory and the hope of that sweet someday.