Last week while tucking my youngest into his crib at night, I whispered a prayer over him as I snuggled him into his blankets. It struck me later that my last sentence was not something I had prayed over my other babies. It was a prayer that came from a place of sorrow that has become integrated into my life as a painful part of a healthy whole...
I prayed that I would get to see him grow old. That prayer that came from a place of knowing that nothing in life is sure, and from a scar of feeling the gash of that loss.
There are many areas of my life that have been touched and changed by the loss of my precious daughter, areas that aren't defined by what happened to me, but by what has happened in me. One of the most poignant events that has reflected this was something I got to do for a dear friend of mine.
I met Candy and Dean and their 5 darling children when some friends of ours invited us to join them and a few other families every week at their home. It was only a few short months since we had lost Ellie, and we were empty, hungry for support, and needing friends who had the strength to help us through the difficult road ahead. Candy warmed my heart immediately with her outgoing friendliness, her frequent smile, and her hilarious story telling. At the time, her youngest was a baby, and unlike other babes, he was content to let anyone hold him, without squirming or fussing to be handed back. Week after week I would find an excuse to snuggle him into my empty arms and feel the warmth of his baby softness heavy against my chest as we sang into the night. His sweet smile and puppy dog eyes warmed my wounded heart.
As the next few years crept by and other hardships surfaced in our lives, Candy was quick to offer help, bringing meals and offering sweet encouragement and prayers. She is a bright example of a compassionate and selfless soul.
This past summer, Candy announced that they were unexpectedly expecting a sixth member of their precious brood of little ones. Although surprising, the anticipation of this new life was met with excitement and joy.
20 weeks in, it was time for the ultrasound to make sure all was going well with the baby's development, and for Candy, a secret chance to sneak at peek at the gender that everyone else would have to wait for. Instead of that eagerly anticipated black and white beauty of baby's first photo, a heavy cloud of fear and sadness. Candy and Dean were told their baby, another boy, had Trisomy 13, missing many necessary functions for life, and would never live outside of the womb.
It was a heartbreaking, breathtaking reality. One that no one really knew how to face, but Candy and her family would have to.
I remember contemplating again that phenomenon of joy and pain coexisting. I listened to Candy express the joy she felt while feeling his kicks and wiggles, and I witnessed her tears as each day brought her closer to a painful goodbye. I wondered how torturous it must feel to know for so many weeks that the day was coming, so different than the unexpected whirlwind loss I have known. I watched Candy's strength as she chose to embrace every happiness she could of knowing he was still with her, and I doubted I could show such steadfast assurance if I were in her shoes.
This was the first time I remember saying thank You for what I have been through. Not thank You that Ellianna died, but thank you that because of it I could reach out to Candy in a way I never would have known how before. I know how wishfully I long for others to acknowledge my daughter's life, to say her name, to not ignore that she was here for four and a half glorious months. So I listened carefully to the importance behind his chosen name, Beau Emmanuel. I prayed for a miracle, and I prayed for grace if that miracle didn't come. I anointed Candy's beautiful belly with oil, and prayed for her and this delicate but lively little boy whose life could be felt beneath her skin. We prayed, we cried, we made memories. I helped her think of things she would need to plan a service for him. I implored her to lean in, embrace, and take hold of every remembrance she could, because some day when her belly has melted away, those memories will be all she has left of him.
As the weeks grew longer, Beau surprised everyone by his determination and strength in holding on and fighting for day after day safe in his mommy's womb. We wondered if he would make it all the way through after all. We smiled wistfully at the thought that maybe, just maybe his parents would get to meet him while he still had breath.
Despite our hopes, days came when Candy began to feel weary, tired, and sick. Beau slowed down until one morning no more kicks were felt. Ultrasound confirmed his mighty little heart had ceased to beat as he was reunited with his Creator. Such heartbreaking news even after the long anticipation. It sank like rocks. Again my mind marveled at Candy's fortitude as she bravely and calmly faced the strenuous labor that would bear a newborn without a cry.
I was thankful and humbled when Candy asked me to be present at his birth and capture his moments in photos; the only photos they would have of their youngest boy. I never hesitated, I knew it was a great honor, and I have always dear the photos I have of my little girl. I was disappointed when I was questioned, when someone even tried to discourage me from going, words burning sharp that I was not ready because I had not dealt with my own grief. My sweet Rebecca was the one who spoke encouragement to me, knowing well the road of loss, and assuring me of the validity of my grief.
With prayerful reflection and a pounding heart, I slung my camera over my shoulder and headed for the hospital room where only moments stood between the unknown and the reality of his appearance. The peace that filled the room was Heaven sent. Candy's gentle brokenness flowed down her cheeks as Dean stood near, beholding the beautiful, yet lifeless bundle of their son, Beau Emmanuel.
The next few hours were heavy and sweet as I clicked away, capturing these moments of hello and goodbye. Dean and Candy absorbed every detail and feature of their newborn as they helped wash, dress, and finally snuggle and kiss this little person who had already touched many lives. I did not feel regretful or anxious. It didn't bring me back to my last day with my princess like others had warned. It was an intimate, crushing, priceless, holy snapshot of eternity that I got to witness, as if standing on chosen ground. It blessed me to try to give something, anything to another mama reaching for something to cling to in the life shaking aftermath of losing a child, and how sweet for me to get to love on him and kiss his beautiful little cheeks.
Remember how "God doesn't waste pain?" I hated, hated that someone I love was having to face this tragedy, but I was oh so thankful that God could use my pain, my healing, my hope, to come alongside my friend and help her survive the impossible, just as I have, one day at a time.
Only days after Beau's memorial service, Candy came to me looking for an outlet to share her story. This brave and compassionate woman already knows that she wants to help other moms going through what she is. Candy expressed how hard it was to have so many questions and unknowns about being pregnant with a baby diagnosed with Trisomy. She wants to minister to other moms by helping to answer their questions and ease some of their anxieties by sharing her experience. Here is a link to Candy's new page: Click Here. Please stop in and read Candy's story in her words, and if you know other families dealing with Trisomy during pregnancy, please point them to Candy; they may find comfort there.
No one asks for pain, but we can be encouraged by knowing it won't be wasted. God can use your story to help others through their own.