This past Saturday, I looked through glass into an operating room and saw a newborn baby boy being cleaned up after a c-section with his proud daddy standing nearby. I had been with his mom and dad for hours trying to bring him into this world. C-section was the final outcome. No…a healthy baby boy was the final outcome. As he cried and as I watched his hands and feet fly through the air, the tears streamed uncontrollably down my face. Tears of joy. Tears of remembrance.
Thirty-nine days earlier, I entered another hospital room where a newborn baby girl had just been wrapped in a blanket and handed to her daddy. Only, there were no baby cries. When I unwrapped this precious baby hours later to take photographs of her feet and hands, she was still. Lillian Judith Joy's soul was in heaven.
Tuesday, June 10 - 6:51 a.m.
I received a text from a friend who had been staying at Tina's house: "Mrs. R-- wanted me to let you know she's going in. Baby's not moving. She's crying and scared."
Tina was due the day before and I had spoken to her that Monday afternoon. She said had not felt well during the weekend, but was feeling better. She never mentioned she wasn't feeling the baby move.
I immediately called the house to see if that meant she was in labor. Their 15-year old son answered the phone and he asked me where his mom had gone. "Is she in labor?" he asked me. I told him that's what I was trying to figure out. I did not mention the fact the baby wasn't moving. No need to worry him.
Tina called me before she went up to triage to tell me she hadn't felt strong movement for a few days. She had felt tightenings, but knew that at the end of pregnancy baby moves get slower and more squirmy as they run out of room. But, she wasn't feeling the baby move at all. Her husband was going to meet her at the hospital as he had already left for work.
During the next hour I prayed and texted back and forth with another friend. Non-stress tests, ultrasounds…all of that takes time, so while we were concerned we were pretty confident all would be well.
"Vicki, my baby's gone. My baby's in heaven." Tina began to cry. I had no idea what to say and just cried. She told me there was no heartbeat, that they would induce her so she could deliver. Her husband wanted her to have a c-section so she wouldn't have to go through the agony of delivery, but the midwife knew that the recovery would be easier. Decisions had to be made. She asked if I would go to the house to be with the children as our friend needed to get to classes at the local college. Of course, I would. "Who should tell the children?" Tina asked. She knew it should be their dad…in times of shock, things aren't always immediately apparent. I prayed with my dear friend and I hear myself say in the course of that prayer, "God, this baby was created for You…"
Just imagine how many babies are created solely for God Himself.
Around 9:15 I got to the house. The kids were smiling and happy. We sat down and played a few games. Every once in a while, they would mention the baby and "why don't they call?" They were just waiting for that phone to ring so they could hear the good news of a new baby brother or sister. I wondered when their dad would arrive to tell them.
I was outside with the children. I had made a couple of phone calls and was now conducting a race between the two older brothers when Bill walked out onto the back porch. The kids were excited to see him. "Come in…." His voice cracked. The children followed their dad to the living room as they asked, "Did mom have the baby?!" I stood in the hallway next to their oldest son, Josh, as a grieving father wept as he told his children that their baby was in heaven. I watched Josh, a student of mine this past year, as his face turned very sober. He looked at me and said, "I knew something had happened. I just knew." The oldest daughter, Autumn, the one who seemed to look forward to that phone call the most, left the house to find her best friend next door. Josh soon followed. Bill held their other daughter, Hannah, on his lap and told her, "I wanted a little girl so you could have a little sister." He sobbed. I hugged little ones.
A little later, Autumn came back with her friend. They had made a card for Tina. Two peonies had been picked…one for Tina and one for the baby. Those would go back with Bill to the hospital.
My job was to get Tina's things together - the bag, the nightgowns, the chargers for the electronics, her brush….I wasn't going to need to send the carseat. I enlisted the help of the girls for it seemed to help them to have something to do.
Josh just couldn't talk to anyone for a while. Even when our beloved pastor came, he stayed in the neighbor's yard and played with their dog. A while later, our pastor went to him and they talked. It helped.
After Bill and Pastor left to tell Tina's parents and to head back to the hospital where Tina was laboring, the children played games with their neighbors. Josh helped get lunch together. The girls made brownies. I could see the evidence of the prayers of many in the smiles of the children.
I got a call from one of my friends who was in the delivery room with Tina. The baby would be coming soon. The plan was for me to get up to the hospital as soon as possible after the baby was born to take photos so that the family would always have a keepsake of their precious little one.
My friend who had left earlier for college classes returned to take care of the children. I was filling her in on all of the happenings of the day and how the children were doing when my phone rang. "It's a girl," said the voice on the other end.
A girl. Just what Bill wanted.
I soon left the house and was on my way to the hospital.
I arrived at the hospital around 3:45. The nurse had just handed Lillian Judith Joy to Bill…the father who wasn't sure he ever wanted to hold his baby knowing he would just have to give her up. But, he held her. He looked at her. He loved her. A few minutes later, Tina was holding her in her arms and she cried. She wailed.
Oh! That wail! It haunts me to this day. The grief that tore through to my soul. I turned and saw another sweet friend of mine sitting at the end of the room and quietly sobbing. The tears streamed down her cheeks and her shoulder shook. But the only noise was the wailing of a mother experiencing the deepest of grief.
Yet, at the same time, the grace and peace of God was in that room. While Bill and Tina so wanted their baby with them, alive, they knew God loved them still. They knew He was in control. They rested in Him. I don't know if I ever saw God so clearly as I did that day in that room. I saw God as Tina wailed. I saw God as Tina and Bill smiled and laughed at different times. I saw God as friends and family poured into the room. I saw God as I looked into the perfect and peaceful face of sweet Lillian. Most of all, I saw God as I watched Josh go from not wanting to enter the room to standing at the end of his mother's bed, then stand next to her and reach over and touch his sister's forehead. Then I saw God as I saw him hold his precious baby sister in his arms.
God is present in the hurt.
Later that night, we unwrapped precious Lillian one more time so that I could take pictures of her little feet and hands. Then, she needed to be swaddled again. I took her from her mother's arms and laid her on the blankets on the hospital bed. I had cried little that day and still would not cry much until the following days. It was the memory of this moment that would break me later. I knew even then it was God's grace that allowed me to gently wrap that baby girl as I had wrapped my babies so many times. As I wrapped her, I talked to her. She was precious. I just held her after I had her swaddled. I knew then, that I would never again be the same. She changed my life.
This past Saturday night, I took a baby boy from his mother's arms, laid him on the blankets on a hospital bed. I talked to him as I swaddled him. He looked around with bright eyes. I held him and he looked at me. He was alert. He was alive. I rejoiced and I remembered. In the birth of sweet Daniel Richard, I remembered my time with precious Lillian Judith Joy.
To view the slideshow shown at Lilly's memorial service, please click on the following link: