GROWING OUR FAMILY

When our first child was only a tiny four months old, we were shocked and pleased to learn that we were again expecting a baby. Many new parents would be overwhelmed by the idea of two children so close in age, but we were thrilled. In fact, we had sat up late at night, breathing in our son’s sweet newborn scent, listening to his soft little noises, and talked about our longing for more children. Two babies to grow up close in age and run through the house as a pair.

My second pregnancy began much like my first. I endured weeks of morning sickness that I thought would never end. Close to the halfway mark we met with a specialist for a sonogram, eager to find out the gender of the baby and to see that he or she was growing properly.

After a few glances at our baby on the ultrasound screen, the doctor explained our baby had hydrops fetalis—a condition in which the baby’s body has filled with fluid. In our case, the fluid was in every part of her little body, surrounding her beating heart, all the way down to her tiny fingertips.  

The prognosis was grim. The doctor told us the baby’s heart would simply stop beating, due to the stress of the swelling. They gave us a ten percent chance of the baby living into the third trimester and even then, her heart would likely stop beating before, during or shortly after delivery.

At this first ultrasound, I remember the doctor going through the seven stages of grief. I found this surreal. I could see my baby’s heart beating on the ultrasound screen and see her little body moving around. I was not meant to be grieving.


MAKING A PLAN

At this appointment we found out I was carrying a precious baby girl. We chose the name Eden, the garden where all life began. We forged ahead as her parents making every decision with her care as our first priority. Our sweet girl’s heart continued to beat at each of our weekly check ups. As the week of viability inched closer, we began to plan for Eden’s arrival in hopes that we could have as much time with her as possible. Although her condition had been identified, the cause was not found. This lead to test after test after test. None of them proved helpful. As Eden’s condition worsened each week, we were left paralyzed by disbelief and fear. We didn’t always feel supported by our doctors and we didn’t know what questions to ask or how to articulate our concerns.

During this time, I found an Instagram account for a mother who had recently chosen to carry to term. I read her story through photos and captions, and I instantly felt a connection to her family. With a desperate, racing heart, I sent Stephanie a message. I asked for her advice; I wanted to know what to expect and how to cope and how to make a plan. She answered my questions openly and sent me a birth plan right away.

Thinking through these decisions about delivery, birth and post-delivery was difficult, but I also felt I was finally able to do something for my baby. I was able to make a plan for what her very meaningful one day on earth would look like. My husband and I never once questioned our decision to choose life for our baby—she was part of us from the moment she formed in my womb. Therefore, it was important to think through how we would honor, celebrate and mourn her all at once.


THE HARDEST DAY

A few months later, we arrived for our weekly ultrasound with our little boy in tow and waited patiently in the doctor’s office that was becoming a second home. After we were called back into the room and the lights were turned off, the ultrasound image appeared and I noticed that small flickering heartbeat was still. Our doctor sighed deeply and broke the news.  

That same night we were sent to the hospital to be induced and I delivered Eden the next morning. She weighed just over 1 pound and was 24 weeks gestation. I still remember the feeling of her tiny nose as I kissed it after the nurse bundled her up. We held her, prayed over her, took photos and dressed her in a sweet white gown provided by the hospital. Our nurse helped us take tiny footprints that are now framed in our bedroom. She had the sweetest full, round belly and tiny fingers and toes. And as difficult as the labor and the impending goodbye would be, I knew that this baby was so worth all we had endured. We never for a moment regretted giving her life and fighting for her. Although our loss was deep and that day holds a dark wound that will never fully heal, we feel strongly that her little soul still lives in the presence of God.


YOU MAKE ME BRAVE

It’s not been quite a year since Eden was born and our journey through grief feels like it’s only just beginning. There’s so much confusion that comes with grief. We’ve found that having a living, healthy child that lights your world can be the most amazing saving grace and reminder of all the goodness in life. But it can also cause you to feel guilty and nervous and confused.  

Gathering support from family and friends can be difficult after the baby is born. When you are pregnant and have a great big belly, people are checking in on you and asking you questions. But as your baby bump disappears and your arms are left empty, many people can’t find the right words to say, so they say nothing. This is hard in so many ways, but mostly because you don’t want to forget that you did this amazing thing. You carried a baby who was sick and fragile and heaven bound. It will be the bravest and most incredible thing I will ever do in my lifetime. And I don’t ever want to forget our Eden.