"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Today marks 5 years since we held our 3rd baby girl in our arms and said goodbye all in the same moment. So much has happened in these past five years. So many tears, so much pain, so much healing, so much love, so much growth. And can I just say The Father did what He does best--He turned ashes into beauty, pain into beauty, and brokenness into beauty.
In April of 2013, we had been driving back and forth from New Orleans to Lafayette for about a month praying about a job offer from Our Savior’s Church. We knew the job was for us and we planned to move back to my hometown. We chose to build home in the Youngsville area and needed to pack up our rent house in Nola. In the time that it would take for our house to be built, we would move in with my parents to save money over those months. I can see now how even that detail was God's protection.
I can remember on April 30th, driving back home to Nola with Jake and the girls (Ava-Kate was almost 3 and Addie was almost 2) to start packing up and make the move to Lafayette. I can remember feeling a big kick from Lily that made me gasp. She was incredibly strong. Kicking me in the ribs was pretty much her thing at this point, even more so than the other two had. I would have to lay back and move her boney little legs out from under my ribs to relieve the pressure. This was the last time I can say with certainty that I remember feeling her move.
May 1st 2013, we began packing up the house to make the move back to Lafayette. I was 34 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I had been in preterm labor for about 4 weeks.. I had been doing NST's weekly to monitor her movement and heart rate and my contractions. I had gotten a steroid shot for her lungs and heart in case she was premature. At this point, every night included contractions that felt like surely I would be going into labor. I knew that none of this was in my control, and I was learning to put Lily completely in God's hands. The song that I had been listening to on repeat was Oceans by Hillsong UNITED, I had no idea that these lyrics would become so true in the days and months to come.
I can remember sitting on the floor in the laundry room, putting things in boxes when the contractions started to really pick up. These were pretty regular at this point being in preterm labor. I kept packing and figured if it was really labor this time I’d stop when they got more intense. Well they didn’t stop. My water broke (a slow leak), so I got in the tub because I was determined to labor more at home this go round instead of the hospital.
Jake kept asking if she was moving. Now, Jake had a dream at about month 5 that Lily had died, and it stayed in the back of his mind. I didn’t really think much of it. So, he just kept asking, “is she moving?” I would respond “yea I think so, but I’m in labor and movement will slow down.” I see now that my naivety was just protection. I kept assuring him everything was okay.
After I got out of the tub, I got dressed, packed a bag (because I still hadn’t done this... 3rd child ya know?) and everyone laid hands on my belly and prayed over me. At about 6pm, we headed to the hospital excited to finally meet our 3rd baby girl. In the car we talked about who we thought she would look like, Ava-Kate (mini Jake) or Addie girl (mini Allie)? I shared how I was nervous to deliver because I really wanted to go natural this time. The contractions continued to get more intense as we drove into the parking garage and walked to the labor and delivery floor anticipating the arrival of our Lily girl.
As we walked in the hospital they gave us a room. The nurses checked that my water had in fact broken and they put me in the bed and strapped those very familiar monitors to my belly.
Like I mentioned before, I had been having weekly NST's. So I was so familiar with her heartbeat. Each week as they placed the monitors on my belly, her heartbeat would come through the speakers so loud, a comfort that would flood over me and ease my worries, and I would thank God for the sweetest sound.
I was fully expecting to hear that familiar sound of her heart beat thumping so loudly. But instead we were hit with a deafening silence. The nurses looked at each other, and she asked me “Baby where do you normally hear her?” My heart dropped. I looked at her and said “right there (where the monitor already was placed)”. Jake and I locked eyes and we knew. The tears came and didn’t stop for hours (or days or weeks or months). Jake climbed in bed with me and he held me. We held each other. He prayed over me and we begged God to heal our baby girl.
Minutes later my sweet doctor came running in with the ultrasound. She had become such a dear friend at this point. We had spent so much time together over the last 34 weeks. I cant imagine the weight she felt as she had to officially tell me that Lily had no heartbeat, and that she had gone to be with Jesus. A pain that I have never experienced before in my life fell over me. I felt crushed. An unbearable pain that tears and crying out could never satisfy. It felt like an out of body experience. As if the pain was too much to bear and I had to watch from afar.
Honestly most of the timeline here after is a blur. I remember realizing I still had to deliver her... how could I ever have the strength to do it?... what would I tell the girls who were so excited to meet their new baby sister?...how would I go home without her?...what do I say when people ask how many kids I have?.. the thoughts didn't stop.
In the middle of the this, Jake looked at me and said “Do you still trust Him?” And immediately I replied “yes.” I didn’t know how we’d get through this, I just knew we would. I knew He would get us through it all. That His word would not return void. For a moment I felt peace. I tangibly felt it in the room and I knew that He was with us and He had never left us and He wouldn't leave us in the days, weeks and months to come.
Jake made phone calls and texts he should have never had to send. Family came and tried to comfort the best they could. I felt as if it was all in slow motion. Like I wasn't even actually in the room but watching a reel of the saddest movie.
After hours of labor, on May 2nd at 12:01 am I delivered Lily Alexandra at 5 lbs and 14oz. My doctor placed her into my arms and I held onto her and never wanted to ever let her go. She was breathtakingly beautiful. A mix of Ava Kate and Addie but perfectly her own person (3.5 years later I would see that she looked exactly like my Isabella). She looked perfectly healthy. I kept thinking it was all a dream and that she would just open her little eyes, but she never did. She may not have been alive in our arms, but she was very much alive in heaven with her Creator, and that was my hope--that I would get to see her again one day. Jake and I held her and waves of sorrow crashed over us that I could never ever put into words.
We left the hospital the next day without our baby. Scenarios rushing through my head of how we would have to face person after person, and explain our new reality. I felt incapable. I felt weak. I felt so anxious. All I could do was just keep saying "Jesus" over and over. I knew He knew that was all I could do, and somehow that one word encompassed every lofty prayer I could have prayed in those moments. He heard my cries. He knew my needs and He knew how to meet them. As we drove home it was cloudy and rainy but stretched across the sky was the most beautiful rainbow. A promise. And just like he promised Noah the earth wouldn't flood again, I heard him whisper that Jake and I would not go through this again.
Maybe you too have lost a child or you know someone who has... It is for that reason I share this story. Not to make you cry, but to share a story of redemption, a story of hope. To share a story that the enemy meant to take us out, but God used to make us stronger and to bring us tangibly closer to Him. To share that my incredible Father turned death into life in more ways than one. Lily's life did not go without purpose. Her short life was used to help so many. People have come to know the real living Jesus because of her. Jake and I trusted in a God that got us through the loss of a daughter and we want everyone to know that He is just as available to you if you let him in.
Please let me be clear, this is only a snapshot of the last five years we've journeyed through. I would never want someone to read this, right in the middle of their storm and think that because God gave us a promise, that we didn't walk through battle after battle. I can promise that this was the hardest thing we've been through and most likely ever will go through. Even after five years, I still have days where I just need to cry and grieve because I miss her and I long to hold her again. I don't think that will ever stop until I see her again. And I will continue to share all the different aspects of our healing process, the highs and the lows.
But Jake and I had a choice to make in that hospital room. We could run away from God, choosing to believe the lie that He caused this or we could choose to run TO him, straight into His arms, trusting that He is the very best father and the only one fully capable of seeing us through something so tragic. Five years later I can confidently say, He fully kept that promise. I began to hear him speak to me in ways I never had before. I don't think he hadn't tried to talk to me like that before, I just don't think I was listening. I believe I heard Him because I was desperate to hear His voice. I made time to sit and wait until He spoke. I don't even think I cared what He said, just as long as he was talking to me, because when you hear His voice, and you hear Him say your name, everything changes. The pain is still there, but you can tangibly feel the hope, feel the peace wash over you and trust the process that one day, the pain will lessen and you can then share your story with others who are right in the middle of their worst nightmare. And prayerfully can bring a little light into their darkness.
And most of all, I share her story because He asked me to, and His ways are always higher and greater than my own.