“It’s as if you got struck by lightning”, my doctor said to me when explaining why my son, Thomas, was stillborn at 36 weeks. I sat in that desk chair and felt stuck with those words dominating my thoughts. I don’t really remember everything else he said. All the numbers and statistics felt like just meaningless words to me, my son was gone.
Because Thomas’s passing away was so statistically uncommon and because I appeared in excellent health, the doctors felt no concern for me to have more children especially since I had a healthy and normal pregnancy and delivery with my first-born son, John. “There is nothing wrong with you”, the doctors would say, and yet I have never felt “normal” since Thomas’s death.
I wanted more children and although I felt terrified to go through another pregnancy, I felt reassured by the doctors’ comments but I still thought, can lightning strike someone twice? Can I risk the fear for the chance to love again?
My husband, Michael, always reminded me that God is with us in our suffering and strived to point me to the cross where Jesus was found. We both knew we wanted more children and prayed with expectation that we would be blessed with another healthy child. We waited the recommended time to become pregnant again and were so grateful to God that we became pregnant immediately. God was showing us His kindness and goodness.
But about a few days after the positive pregnancy test, I became terrified. The fear overtook me and I became panicked–what if I lose another child? How will I endure this pregnancy?
There I was, grieving my son who I never got the chance to know and rejoicing in the life beginning to grow within me. There was sorrow and joy side by side–they were always with me and I could not experience one without the other.
Every day after my positive pregnancy test I spoke to my baby. I cherished every minute I had because I knew that every moment is not guaranteed. I wanted my baby to know how much I love it. I met with my doctor and the high risk doctors regularly and felt confident they were doing everything possible to check the baby was remaining healthy. Each day felt like a battle and I often spent nights sobbing and pleading with the Lord to allow this child to live.
I wished I could go back to the naïve days of pregnancy when what I struggled with most was being bloated and stretch marks. Now I had to think about whether or not my child would live. At 16 weeks, my husband and I found out we were going to have a daughter and we decided to name her Felicity, which means “happiness.”
I felt cautious in my pregnancy, afraid to get excited about another baby or buy baby girl clothes. I feared that perhaps she wouldn’t get the chance to wear them.
I will never forget the phone call I made to my mom on March 1, 2015 when I was at the hospital and had just learned Thomas had died. “Mom, my baby died,” was all I could muster to say as I sobbed.
That week I had washed and gotten out all of my first son John’s old newborn clothes. I had folded all those tiny blue clothes and put them on the shelf just a few days before Thomas had died. And so my selfless and kind mother packed up all of my baby clothes because she knew when I returned home with no child, I was not going to be able to bear to see them.
Every day of my pregnancy with Felicity I chose to fight my fears and love her to my best ability for whatever amount of time I was given with her.
At 32 weeks I started getting routine ultrasounds with the high-risk doctors to do thorough examinations on the health of our baby girl. My husband was working downtown and my mom was watching my son, John, while I went to my appointment.
I laid there, staring at the ceiling, unable to look at the monitor as every ultrasound brought fear of the news I heard with Thomas–“I’m sorry there is no heartbeat.”
By the grace of God, Felicity was a very active baby, so she was always moving around, reminding me that she was with me. I looked at the ultrasound screen and felt that the ultrasound tech seemed a little hesitant about something.
My heart started racing, “Is everything ok?” I asked. “I’m going to measure this again, but it appears your amniotic fluid is significantly lower than it should be,” she replied. She measured again, got the same number as before so she sent the doctor in. The doctor proceeded to do the same measurement and received the same number. He explained what my amniotic fluid levels should be at 32 weeks and how much lower they were than they should be. So, he said, “You are going to need to go to the hospital and receive steroids to help develop your baby’s lungs. You are going to have this baby soon.”
He further explained that low fluid at this stage increases the chances of a cord accident. I felt in shock all over again. I was going to have her now? Was she going to be ok? She’s too little! I thought. I called my mom and husband and checked myself into the hospital.
I was so relieved when my husband arrived–I had felt so scared and needed his support. I met with my doctor and my kind nurses and also met the neonatologist who would be taking care of Felicity after delivery. When all the doctors and nurses left, I let my head drop on the hospital pillow and cried, “Why are bad things happening again?” I said to my husband. “What if she is not ok?”
He looked directly at me, and as his brown eyes welled with tears he said, “We don’t know, but we do know God will be with us.”
That is what we are promised. That is our peace and the only way I have been able to endure the pain of burying my Thomas is knowing God will walk with us and is ever present in our suffering. By the grace of God, I delivered Felicity the following day. She was beautiful–with dark hair and deep blue eyes–and looked just like her brothers at birth.
I was overjoyed to have her alive knowing that she was going to receive excellent care. Since she needed to be on oxygen and was so small I was unable to hold her. I longed for her to be in my arms and wanted someone to reassure me she was going to be okay. The first week of not knowing if she was going to have any complications from being premature was extremely difficult. As her mother, I longed to hold her and care for her but was unable to.
Day by day, she grew stronger. The first moment I held her and looked in those eyes, she acknowledged with her gaze that she knew I was her mother. She knew I was the first voice she had heard and she knew I was her first home. I held her to my chest as best as I could despite all the wires and tubes. I had longed for this moment for so long.
Michael said he hadn’t seen me that happy in so long. I was beaming. God was showing us His kindness amidst the pain. After three weeks of gaining weight and strength, we were able to bring Felicity home.
Shortly after, I was holding her in the gray rocking chair that I had rocked John in so many times. Suddenly, all my memories of holding Thomas in my arms came flooding back. Again, there was joy and sorrow side by side. I cried as I held Felicity in my arms and remembered what it was like a year prior–holding Thomas as I wailed for God to be near in my pain.
I was not prepared for the extreme joy and extreme sorrow I would experience after her birth. Initially, I fought it, feeling almost angry as if the pain was this unwelcomed intruder, barging in unannounced interrupting my joyful times with Felicity.
Felicity is now 1 ½ and every milestone is marked with these two extremes, because where there is joy, sorrow will be also. It feels strange to be caught in between what my life is and what I thought I would experience with Thomas.
The first smile, the first giggle, all the firsts that were never able to be. Yet, what joy I get to experience in this life with Felicity and our son, John. Initially, I expected with time that the joys would override the sorrow I felt for Thomas, but this is not the case.
I have fought with God over the pain that has occurred in my life and struggled with trusting him. I am learning to accept with open hands the grief I have experienced and choose to trust in His goodness in all circumstances.
I try to greet the sorrow that appears in my daily joys with my children. I feel I am beginning to greet it as an old friend, immediately recognizing it, saying, “Come! Sit beside me. Be near, because you, old friend, are reminding me of the love I have for my dear son who is not with me.”
And so, sorrow sits and lingers with me as John and Felicity play–he chases her down the hallway laughing and she squeals with delight. With tears in my eyes, I see joy and sorrow sitting beside me as a gift, strengthening my love for the life of all three of my children.
This story was submitted to us by Lauren Schulz.