Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thirteen years ago today

Thirteen years ago today, September 29, 1997,
 my heart was broken when I gave birth to a baby who didn't cry.

My heart actually broke the day before, when we found out that the baby boy we had been expecting was no longer alive. The kicking and squirming within me was over. The life was gone.
I was 2 weeks from my due date. Up until this point, my pregnancy had been completely normal. We had two other children, a boy who was nearly 5 and a girl who was nearly 3. I could tell this new baby was going to be my biggest and most active. I had been to the doctor earlier in the week, and he had taken longer than usual to find a heartbeat. He eventually did find it and it seemed normal. For the next couple of days, the baby wasn't as active, but I thought it was because he was so crowded. I was also having some contractions, so it seemed like I might be close to delivering.

We had friends visiting us for the weekend and I had been very busy, but on Sunday morning I mentioned my concerns about not feeling as much movement as usual. My friend offered to go with me to get checked out at the hospital, while the husbands headed for the golf course. Byron and I weren't really too concerned, but thought it might be a good idea to go in for a heartbeat check. When my friend and I (we even had my two kids with us) got to the hospital, they couldn't find the baby's heartbeat. Someone had to call the guys at the golf course (would have been easier with cell phones) and I had to go get an ultrasound. Byron met up with me in the ultrasound room. I had seen enough ultrasounds to know that the baby didn't seem to be moving. I was so afraid, and no one was explaining anything. We were eventually told by the ultrasound doctor (our doctor was just getting back into town from a weekend away, so we met with him later) that our baby boy had died.  We were told that we might find out why after he was born, but most people never know the reason why their babies are stillborn.  After I got dressed and we were walking out of the ultrasound lab, I saw her sitting at her desk crying. Its not easy to have to tell people that they have lost a child.

We headed back to the hospital room and our doctor had arrived to meet with us. He explained that I would need to be induced and deliver the baby. I couldn't imagine that I wouldn't just have a C-section. I did NOT want to go through all the work and pain of labor and delivery, when the outcome would be so painful. Wouldn't it make everything so much easier to have a c-section? He explained that it really wouldn't be easier, since I would have to recover from surgery and grieve the loss of my baby.  We headed home to make phone calls to our family members and friends. I was scheduled to be at the hospital bright and early the next morning. I spent the next couple of hours listening to Byron call people to tell them the news. He got worse and worse at it. During the first phone calls, he calmly explained what had happened. Before long, he was just announcing the important details to the dear friends on the other end--it sounded too blunt. He had nothing left in him to help him share the news gently.

Our families drove up to our house from Missouri on Sunday evening, and friends came to be with us--offering prayers, advice, hugs, and companionship. We had friends who had lost their six-month-old baby several years before, so they were a tremendous help in thinking through the decisions that would need to be made. We had never thought about where to bury one of our children.

I could not believe that I would not be bringing home our baby. I looked at all the things gathered in the baby's room. Gifts we had already received, the clothes I had bought, the preparations I had made, and the beautiful blanket my mother-in-law had crocheted for the baby to come home from the hospital with. My other two kids had received blankets too. I mistakenly thought, "Now this blanket belongs to no one. What am I supposed to do with it?" All the baby's stuff was for no one! I felt like my plans had been stolen away from me.

The next morning we headed for the hospital early. I was given a room at the end of the hallway. It was out of the way to spare us the traffic from other families with their babies. My room had no pictures on the walls of babies. I knew that I was in the "special" room--the room designated for when things go wrong. My doctor took the first steps to induce me, but did not break my water.

 I spent most of the day waiting for labor to begin. It gave me a lot of time to pray, mentally prepare, and time to talk with Byron. I remember praying for God to be my strength, because I had none left. I knew that I was facing one of the hardest tasks of my life. I had no hope except the hope in my Lord. In my weakness, He could be strong. I was counting on it. I begged Him to carry me through this terrible trial.

At some point during the day, God worked in my heart. I realized that I was still going to have a son. Our son would be our third child and he would have a name--Justin Andrew Carson, and he would have a place in our family. I realized that my original feelings of "now this stuff I bought for a baby belongs to no one" were wrong. My plans were not the same as God's plans. I didn't understand His plan, but I felt Him speaking into my heart that He was still blessing us with a son. I would have to wait until Heaven to know him, but this son was still a child that God placed in our family. I trusted in His purpose and plan. I finally looked forward to the birth of my third child. I was ready to face it.

Late in the afternoon we decided to get more agressive and I began pitocin in my IV. I could receive lots of pain medications, because there was no concern for the baby's well being. I was grateful for the narcotics they added to my IV--it helped both physically and mentally.

Our baby boy came into the world silently. Babies aren't supposed to come into the world silently. The room was quiet and sober. The reason for his death was immediately obvious--there was a knot in his cord. We were so in awe of him, just like we were with the births of our other babies, but we were so heartbroken that we would not bring him home, parent him, and watch him  grow up. Our families were gathered outside my room, waiting. They joined us in the room to see our new family member and also say goodbye. We talked about who he looked like, looked at all his fingers and toes, cut a piece of his curly hair to save, laughed, and cried. It was so bittersweet.

The next day, I had to say goodbye to my baby. We left the hospital without him. We were taken down a back stairway, so that we didn't have to walk by the nursery. We drove home without a new baby in a carseat. It was the most devastating thing I had ever faced, but I had a beautiful family waiting for me and I was so grateful for them.

We had a memorial service a couple of days later. Our family joined friends and our church family to worship the Giver of life, who also takes life--in His perfect timing. Byron had a chance to share all the events of the previous few days, so that everyone knew what had happened. He ask them to celebrate Justin's life with us. We were surrounded by love from our Father and so many who came to support us. It was a precious time to us, and the beginning of our healing. The following months would be the most difficult I had lived, but I had a wonderful husband and two young children to care for and enjoy, support and prayers from our family and friends, and I had His Holy Word which brought me so much comfort. These would be the things that got me through the darkness and heaviness of grief.
We are so grateful for the wonderful family God has blessed us with. I had another baby boy a year later--Ryan. The due dates for the two boys were 1 year and 1 week apart. I had Meggan 20 months after Ryan. My plate got so full that I didn't have time to long for a baby, I had two to take care of. I am grateful that my arms were full, because it is the worst feeling to be a mother with empty arms. As full as our lives are now, my heart will always long for the baby that I didn't bring home. The loss of my baby changed me forever. When I lost a child, I gained a hunger for Heaven. I wanted to know about this place God prepared for us. I learned that a "strong faith" could actually be demonstrated through total weakness and reliance on God. I learned to search scripture for words of comfort and healing. I learned that I could abandon all and fall on my face at His feet, and that He would lift me a father lifts up his dear child.  Because of my loss, I could support others who were facing the loss of a child. And because of the promise of Heaven (thank you, Jesus, for your gift of eternal life!), I learned to feel joy and hope again. I learned that even if something really bad happened to me, I would be able to make it through because of Jesus. He was, and still is, the hope for my future! God did what He does best--He healed my broken heart.

My favorite verse:
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  Romans 15:13

I pray that you will also know joy, peace, and overflowing hope!


  1. I cried all the way through this Angie. I prayed for your family today because I knew it was Justin's day, and I prayed that it would make you long for Heaven--and you said it has. Thanks for sharing this and for giving God so much glory in your pain. You are amazing.

  2. I cried too! Thanks for sharing Justin with us.

  3. Hi Angie,
    It's been a long time since I babysat Brandon and you shared meals with me in your home. I didn't know about your loss until a post on facebook prompted me to read your blog. I am grief stricken. Thank you for sharing this intensely personal story of God speaking to you in your suffering. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

    -Karen (Owens) Leuenberger

  4. Thanks for your story....
    Thanks for staying true to your faith when it would be so easy to become bitter.
    Thank you for reminding me how precious our life is today.

    I wish that I had known you then, so I could have been an encouragement.

  5. I cried also, thank you for sharing Justin with all of us...our heavenly children have taught us so much! I pray that so many will come to know our Father because of your love for him and Justin's story. Hugs and prayers to you my sister.