In Honor of Infant Loss and Awareness Month, I am sharing Lily’s post as the first post of this month. She is the reason this blog exists and will forever be memorialized in the words that are shared here.
The Loss of our Lily
This story is the reason for this blog, but of course is the one that I do not really want to type out. I want to write this story with an alternate ending that sounds something like…at 40 weeks gestation, Lily emerged into the world kicking and crying full of life and purpose.
But that is not her story.
I am going to go ahead and put a disclaimer here. I am going to share it all. There are a couple parts that I would like to leave out, but if I am truly going to be vulnerable and true to the mission of this blog, then I must put it all out there. This is a miscarriage story so it is possible that it may cause flashbacks for those who have been through similar experiences.
Now to her story…
Mothers Day weekend 2018 I realized that between my mood and late period that I was most likely pregnant. I went through the weekend analyzing everything and feeling silly because surely I was not. We had lost two babies in the last two years and were not actively trying to get pregnant (but also not preventing either).
On Monday, I took a pregnancy test and was pleasantly surprised to see it positive. I will say, that it was a pleasant apprehension. As a week went by, I began to be able to breathe a little. Then, another week and still no signs of miscarriage. So, I felt safe trying to get into my doctor’s office.
They scheduled us for 8 weeks and we were so delighted to see a real baby on the ultrasound with the cutest fluttery heart! Our last two babies were only documented with a pregnancy test and the pains of miscarriage, so this was such a joyous moment for both of us.
My hope began to rise as week after week ticked off the calendar and with our 12-week appointment, we heard that joyous sound of a heartbeat.
With this pregnancy (and each of the ones before) I really struggled with my mood swings and hormones. I truly feel like I turn into the grumpiest person with mild depression while pregnant. As my 16-week appointment approached, I really wondered if I should talk to the midwife to see if there was something that would help.
16 weeks came and I went alone to my appointment. I was relieved because I wanted to tell her about the crazy moods and see if she had advice. She agreed it was most likely hormones and possibly even the result of fear and anxiety knowing that we had experienced the two losses before. She assured me that at this stage in the pregnancy, miscarriage percentages were so low that it should not be an issue.
I got on the table to check the heartbeat and measurements and felt the familiar feeling of the gel and sonogram on my tummy. As she maneuvered it around, the absence of the thing we were looking for was like a siren going off in my head. She assured me that these 16 weeker’s were really tricky to find, but I remembered that my 12 weaker had been really easy. I sat there waiting and waiting for what felt like an eternity and had that line pop in my head from Sweet Home Alabama when her fiancé gets stood up at the altar, “So this is what this feels like” meaning, so this is what it feels like when they can not find a heartbeat.
The midwife said she knew I was worried and asked if it was ok to get the ultrasound machine. I said, please. She came back with it and immediately got it all hooked up and began working over my belly looking for what we hoped we might find.
But, it was not as we hoped. What we saw was a perfect little baby that was not moving around on the screen and did not have that precious little fluttery heartbeat.
The air seemed to leave the room at that moment and as she looked at me and said, “I am so sorry” all I could say was, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but no matter what, He is good.” She agreed and we cried together as I began to process the reality of what was happening.
She told me to call my husband and that I would need a formal ultrasound to check measurements and for confirmation. So, as she got things ready with the ultrasound tech, I tried to reach my husband.
He was at camp with the young children from church and unfortunately it was at one of the few times he did not have his phone accessible. I sent him a quick text and texted my mom and a couple women in our church that are prayer warriors, hoping just maybe this nightmare was not true.
I was taken to the ultrasound room and got ready for that familiar feeling you get with the nice ultrasounds…the only times I had been in that room where you get the deluxe table and warm gel was for my healthy babies. This time, the atmosphere was much different.
I asked if she could tell what the gender was and she said yes…oh how my heart soared. I was so, so, so thankful! When she said its a girl, I knew we had our Lily (more on her name at the end of the story). From that point, it seemed like person after person came into the room to talk about options, plans, and possible scenarios. I knew I needed to make a plan with my husband and could not wait until he was home so we could just get her hearts wrapped around everything.
I was sure I absolutely did not want a surgical procedure. I wanted to deliver our baby girl intact and to be able to see her if possible. I was told that the hospital would be very honoring of her and our wishes and that we could spend as much time as we needed with her before we went home. I was told to plan for a 24-48 hour induction and was given the advice to come in after our children went to bed so that we could sleep (is that even a thing in a hospital?) during the easiest stage.
We decided to go the next evening after my husband got home from camp. He and I both were exhausted from the grief that had crept in like a thief in the night and he especially had not gotten a whole lot of rest at camp. We napped during the day and got packed to go to the hospital.
As we began the hour drive to our hospital, I realized that for the first day of that week, it was not raining. It was Friday and we had rain that had started on Tuesday and had poured continuously.
As we topped the hill from our road preparing to get on the highway I saw the most amazing sunset. Honestly, I am not sure I have ever seen a sunset so beautiful. But, what I can hardly explain is, as we drove up the mountain to our hospital it just continually changed and grew more brilliant. It was absolutely awe-inspiring.
Halfway up, my husband asked which route I wanted to take…and at first, I picked my favorite because it is not the crazy interstate. But, at the last minute, I said, “NO, stay on the highway” because I could not bear to leave behind that sunset and head a different direction. The sunset continued until we were almost to the hospital and twilight had moved in and I can say with certainty, tears streamed down my face the entire trip.
As we parked at the hospital, we said a prayer before unloading and heading up. We were greeted at the desk and they were all prepared for us, yet as I stood there telling them my name and date of birth I just broke down and sobbed. I honestly just could not get it out. I am not sure why, but that seemed to be my last great gush of emotions while in the hospital…not that I did not cry again, but it seemed in that moment, I got out the last of my I can’t believe this is real tears.
Jessi was our nurse and she loved Jesus and I was so thankful because I had prayed for a spirit-filled nurse to take care of us. She was young and did not have any children, but she took care of me with great compassion and patience.
The method for induction was Cytotec, to be administered every 3 hours until dilated and labor began. I planned for an epidural because I felt like the physical pain of labor would just be cruel on top of the mental and emotional struggle I was already in…plus, I knew from past births that my body does not dilate under great pain and it would be best to just avoid all that if possible.
They began the Cytotec at 11:00 pm and we decided to try to get some rest. Around 1:30 or 2:00 they woke me up to give me a second dose. I was not dilated at all and was still pretty high and thick, so they knew we would need a good bit more time. But around 4:00 I felt a lot of fluid coming out and called the nurse (since hubby was sleeping I really wanted to let him rest) and it was my water that had broken.
I laid back in bed with a ginormous pad on to collect the fluids that continually kept draining and started to wonder if this would mean the pain would begin to ramp up soon. Everything I had googled prior to arriving said that most women experienced true labor pains with Cytotec and that the delivery was hard without pain medicine.
The doctor came back in around 5:00 and gave me another dose and said that I was not really dilated yet and that because I had a LEEP procedure in the past that my cervix might take longer to dilate than normal. She said if we went 24 hours without delivery, they would give me a break and then start back up after 12 hours. After she left, my husband and I looked at each other in disbelief that it could be a MUCH longer process than we had anticipated.
Around 6:30, I woke up feeling like I really had to go to the bathroom. I felt like my bladder was going to bust and my stomach was hurting a little. I called the nurse and when she didn’t come fairly soon, I told my husband that I could not wait and that I needed to get on the potty. He helped me in there and as soon as I sat down, blood clots began POURING out of me. It was the most awful sound I have ever heard and I was immediately embarrassed and scared to death all at the same time.
I told my husband to call the nurse because I thought I might be hemorrhaging. Within a minute, I began to have horrible diarrhea. I absolutely had no control over what was happening to my body. I was mortified, to say the least (and this is the part I really wanted to leave out).
When the doctor came in (because our poor nurse was tied up in another room), I apologized profusely because it did not smell good at all. We explained what happened and she wanted to check me. I told her I needed to wipe, but she said not to worry, that I could just get to the bed and we would deal with that later. It was then that I looked down and saw the cord.
I just started to ball and said, “Oh my God, I see the cord, oh my God, oh my God”. The doctor came right in that bathroom and went into that toilet and got our sweet baby out and wrapped her up and brought her to the bed. She cut the cord and got it clamped and laid Lily on our chest totally wrapped up where we could not see her.
When our nurse came in, she helped me to the bathroom to clean up and apologized for not being there. She was so kind to me even though I was an absolute mess (nurses are absolute saints for dealing with all they deal with!). During that time, our doctor cleaned Lily up and placed her in a tiny little outfit that was knitted and into a very small little knitted boat. My husband said that he saw tears in her eyes as she left our room.
Our nurse brought Lily to me and I could see her tiny hands and feet; her face was not very recognizable and I honestly do not know if it is because of something that was wrong with her or because of the delivery. I was glad that I was able to see her and hold her and was at peace knowing that she was safe in the arms of Jesus.
Our nurse worked to try to get footprints, but her feet were so small it was not possible. We kept her in our room with us until it was almost time to go and I was thankful that a sweet older woman came in and carried her out like an alive baby to be safely cared for until the funeral home could pick her up.
The final step in our induction was the delivery of the placenta. Now, this process takes up to 4 hours because the placenta is not ready to let go yet. The nurse that came on that morning after Jessi left was not thinking about the fact that I might have to have surgery and she let me eat a bagel and cream cheese with bacon for breakfast.
Shortly after it was gone, she mentioned that she made a mistake because if we hit that 4-hour mark and no placenta, then we would need to go into surgery for a D&C. Now that I had eaten, the timing was more like 8 hours.
So, we slept and watched Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and talked for the next few hours as we waited. The 4-hour mark came and went and around 12 noon (the 5-hour mark) I again woke up feeling like I really needed to go to the bathroom. The doctors had come in to check on me and once I was on the potty again, I felt something happening. I told them I thought the placenta was coming and the doctor actually came in and it delivered into her hands.
She helped me back to the bed and checked the placenta and me. Then she got an ultrasound machine to look at my uterus to make sure there was nothing in there that might be a part of the leftover placenta. Fortunately, all was clear and I did not have to have a surgical procedure.
The most amazing thing that I have to share is that for the first time, I was able to have a drug free birth and more amazingly than that, it was actually pain free. From everything I read, I should have had a lot of cramping and pain with the Cytotec, but by the grace of God alone, I was spared. I know my results are not typical but just wanted to give Him the glory for allowing me to have that with my sweet Lily.
We had lunch and hung out for a few more hours before they deemed us fit to go home. We were cleared to go at 8:00 pm, just 24 hours after we had left home to head up the mountain. I was so thankful that things had progressed quickly and safely so that we could get back home to see our kids before they went to bed.
As we wheeled out of the OB area to head down to the car my husband was bringing around, there stood a new friend from our church, Mary. I immediately melted when I saw her into a big sobbing puddle because I was just so overjoyed to see her sweet compassionate face and her pregnant belly. Mary herself had tragically lost her baby the year before, so the grief I was beginning to walk through was a familiar friend to her.
She walked me down and gave Mike a big hug as they loaded me up. As we began to pull away, Mary was standing to the side waiting on her husband. Mike rolled down the window to tell her goodbye and we saw the tears streaming down her face. It was in that moment that I realized how incredibly brave and selfless it was for her to come love on us and basically rip the band-aid off the wound that had been healing over the last year. That was my first experience with abounding love through this difficult time, but God had so much more in store for us.
We went home that night and loved on our girls and my hubby rocked them to sleep since I was not up to it. They struggled to sleep during the night and I think a lot of it was the weight of what our family had gone through trying to settle in on them.
I planned not to go to church the next day because obviously, it had been a physically and emotionally brutal weekend. But, when I woke up Sunday morning, I felt like I should go. I fixed myself up as much as I could and left with my family for what I figured would be the hardest day ever.
When we arrived, we were greeted by our pastor. He just hugged me so tight and told me he was surprised I was there. I told him I felt like I needed to be and couldn’t think of a better time to come. Each person that I encountered in our fairly new church stopped and hugged me and loved on me. One sweet soul came and embraced both my husband and myself and thanked us for allowing them to grieve with us. She said it was so good that we came because everyone needed to share this with us.
Before the worship service began, our pastor came up to me again and asked if it was ok to have us come up and to have a prayer for us. I said absolutely. He also said if we wanted to speak we could and I assured him my husband would, but I would not.
During the worship as the songs poured over us, the waves of tears just kept coming as I sang of God’s goodness and faithfulness. It was during that time that we were surrounded by 5-10 church members and they began to pray passionately for us and over us. Speaking life and truth and healing into our hearts. Weeping and crying with us and mourning our loss.
When the song ended our pastor called us to the front and explained that we had lost our Lily and gave the microphone to my husband who spoke briefly and then the microphone came by me. At first, I shook my head, mostly because I am not one to speak in public. But, then I took it and said a few words that I honestly can’t remember but was grateful that I had.
Then the most amazing thing happened. The pastor opened the service to allow the congregation to come up and love on us. I am telling you what, we were truly ministered to during that time. Person after person after person with tears in their eyes and encouragement on their lips came to tell us how much we are loved, how special Lily is and how they had been praying so much for our family. We were absolutely lavished with the love of the Father by His compassionate people. I am still amazed by what happened that day.
When we left the church, we both just looked at each other and said, that was Lily’s memorial service. It felt like we had been on holy ground in that sanctuary.
The days that followed included lots of meals brought by friends and family, cards, flowers, and groceries picked up for us. Each day we were more and more amazed at how much people cared for us when we were broken and healing.
I want to say this because this is a full disclosure post. Wednesday of that week was my hardest day. I was ill and emotional and sobbing every time I took a breath it felt like. I could not be rational and I could not be kind. We had church that night and the lesson in my small group class was on Bitterness and Forgiveness and I knew I was not ready to discuss those things. I stayed home alone and when my husband got home I still struggled to hold it together.
We went to bed that night and I had to get up because I could not stop sobbing and I knew my husband needed his rest. I spent most of the night on the couch and at one point thought about taking some ibuprofen for a headache and had the thought go through my head, “Why don’t you take the whole bottle”. I had enough sense about me to say, no way, and laid on that couch until sleep finally overtook me.
Before morning, I felt good enough to get back into bed and I awoke with a different perspective. It’s not that I have stopped crying since that day, but it has definitely been different. The grief feels softer now and often the tears come when I tell someone about all the wonderful things that our friends and family did for us. Or they come when someone genuinely hugs me and says, we have been praying for you. Or when another mother says, I know, I have been there too.
There is this secret club, that no ones talks about and no one wants to be a member of. But, once you are inducted, you are a lifetime member and you will extend your heart and care toward each new member that crosses your path. I am so thankful for all the ones who have shared so graciously with us. I hope to return the favor in the future.
I mentioned above that I would share about where Lily’s name came from, so here is that story.
I went to Healing Rooms at our church for prayer one evening because I was tired of the anxiety I was experiencing each month around my cycle. We had already had 2 miscarriages and had always had the belief that God was in control of our future and whether we were to have more children or not. The problem was, I would always be anxious about whether I would start my period or not.
When I did start, there would often be a mixed bag of emotions. Relief because I was not pregnant and sadness because I was not pregnant. I knew this was partially normal considering all we had gone through, yet, it was weighing on me a lot.
When I came into the prayer room, the team had spent time praying over my folder before they even knew whose it was or the need. During that prayer, one of the women heard the word, Lily. So she asked me if Lily meant anything to me. I thought for a moment and said, no, I don’t think so. So we went on about the business of praying. A couple months later when I did find out I was pregnant that time came back to me and I told my husband that if it was a girl we might just have our Lily.
So of course, when we actually found out she was a girl we knew for sure that was her name.
As a way to honor our sweet girl, I came home from the hospital and got the idea to plant lilies in our front garden that had never really gotten any TLC. I thought it would be a good way to get the family involved in creating something beautiful for our girl. Of course, I knew we would need a sign that said Lily’s Garden so that everyone who came by would know it was for her.
The funny thing is, as I was writing this blog post, I came across another verse that absolutely floored me. I had already been shocked at the way God had lined this website name up almost a year before Lily’s delivery and the verse from Song of Soloman 6:3 mentioning her beloved grazing for lilies. But, what really got me is this verse right before it. “My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens and to gather lilies.” Song of Soloman 6:2. God is truly the Author of our lives. I have never been more shocked at how he has lined things up as I have been these last few weeks.
I stand amazed.