I’m finally ready to sit down and write, finally ready to walk through those days surrounding actually losing Ava. It’s one thing to walk through them over and over in your mind. It’s something very different to actually sit down and type them out.
To relive it.
About a week or so before I lost Ava, I was finally starting to feel her move. I had felt her earlier, but it’s hard to tell, when baby is so tiny, if those fluttering movements are baby, or just gas! But now I could actually tell that she was moving and kicking. It was a bitter sweet place to be at the time. Even though I loved feeling her move, it would often bring tears to my eyes knowing that I would most likely have to say goodbye. Yet, as I look back now, I really only remember the sweetness of feeling her alive like that, and those memories are ones I cherish.
That Friday before she was gone, I had “a bee in my bonnet”. I wanted to get some things in order that had been on my “to do” list but hadn’t taken priority. I saw that Ikea was having their winter sale, so Daniel, myself, and the two youngest boys headed off for the maze of Swedish furniture, with a side of temptation. We found what we were looking for and this enabled me to get our spare bedroom set up with an actual bed and good sheets, and comforter. There were also some other organizational items that I was able to set up as well. Anything to make life easier, right?
Then over the next few days we started getting our lives back in order after the craziness of Christmas. On Tuesday night Daniel and I finished getting the guest bedroom in order. Little did I know what a blessing it would be to have that done that night.
Now I knew for sure I had felt Ava move on Friday evening, but by the end of Saturday I wasn’t sure I had felt her move at all that day. And then Sunday came and went, again I wasn’t sure I had felt her move that day either. She was small, and smaller still due to her T18, so it was hard to tell if she had just shifted to a place where it was harder to feel her movement or if she was gone. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that Wednesday, so I knew I would find out for sure by then. But at this point God was just instilling peace in my heart, and I was feeling fairly optimistic. On Monday night, I did tell Daniel I couldn’t be sure if I had felt her move since Friday. He made sure he could come with me to my doctor’s appointment.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into that day. I went over questions to ask the doctor, like: “should I transfer to a hospital that deals with high risk babies?” And so on… There are a lot of unknowns and questions to go over with T18.
At my doctor’s here in NJ, instead of just listening for the heartbeat they actually have a little ultrasound machine in the room. It’s not as detailed, or precise, as the ones at the hospital, but you can still see your little one on the screen.
Even going into it knowing she could be gone, nothing prepares you for the silence.
The doctor ran the wand over my belly and I looked at our little one and she was so still. She was probably my most active baby in my ultrasounds, more so than any of the boys. So, seeing her there so still, I knew she was gone. The doctor, I think tried to shield us from it for the minutes she was looking for baby’s heart.
But we knew.
She then ushered us into her office and we discussed, through tears “what now?” She told us she was sending us to the Maternal Fetal department at the hospital to have another ultrasound to confirm that our little one was gone.
That day we were planning to find out Ava’s gender regardless of the outcome. We had the doctor write it down in an envelope. Then made what felt like a long trip to the van, and Daniel and I opened it together…. ‘Female’ it read.
That’s when the flood of tears came for both of us. The ugly cry you just can’t stop even if you wanted too. But we didn’t want to. There was a wonderful and horrible release of emotions in that moment. Finally getting to truly mourn the child we loved, the little girl we had wanted and prayed for. The time of hoping we would meet her had past, and we could truly mourn her at last.
I think we both had felt in our hearts at some point during my pregnancy that she was a girl. But the full weight of everything hit so hard. How do you prepare for the freight train of loss?
We then drove to the hospital and went for the second ultrasound, where they confirmed that she was, indeed, gone and had been gone for a few days. The reality of “Yes, the last time I felt her move was that Friday.”
Now, I had to check in to the maternity area. I looked at my still baby on the screen while laying on that bed and just felt overwhelmed. I can’t do this, I can’t check in and go deliver my stillborn little girl.
But God’s presence is never absent.
When I despair, the Lord reminds me that He is indeed right there. He knew what we would be encountering that day, He knew the overwhelming emotions that would come, and the difficulty I was feeling at facing the next 24 hours, or even in the next 10 minutes.
That still small voice was whispering to me “One step at a time, literally just focus on one physical step at a time.” I am not alone, the Lord is my strength, the Lord is carrying me.
I delivered Her at 1:15 am on January 10, 2019.
She would have been 21 weeks that day. I won’t go into the details of the actual delivery. It was very much just like a normal vaginal delivery, that I’ve had with my other boys. Except it was easier. In some ways, it was really nice that is was easier, and in other ways it will always break my heart that it was easier.
The nurses took her and cleaned her up then brought her to me in her blankets. It was beautiful to hold my, light as a feather, little girl in my arms. She was 8 ½ inches long and weighed 8 ounces. She was so light because she was only 20 weeks but also from the T18 she was small. I wasn’t sure what was heavier, my little girl, or the blankets she rested in.
We got to hold her, take some pictures, and talk to her even though it was obvious she was already whole with the Lord.
It was a blessing to say goodbye in a tangible way.
The newborn photographer does pictures for free for babies that are stillborn or that die shortly after birth. She came in and took some photos for us. The social worker came in and talked to us about funeral homes and the process of paperwork and our different options on what we would like to do with her body. Those are things you never want to have to go over for your baby. But I’m so thankful the social worker was so helpful and sensitive to our situation.
In fact, all the staff we encountered at the hospital was wonderful and caring. They even had a memory box for our little Ava. So many things I would have had put together at a later date, I didn’t have to worry about because the hospital had it covered.
I delivered Ava at a Catholic hospital, where they offer to have a pastor come and visit you in these hard situations. Pastoral care was not something we lacked. Pastor Warren visited us both days I was in the hospital, and brought some encouragement and Bible verses at the behest of President Larson. Pastor Aage also visited us, and we had offers from other pastor friends to stop by, but we just weren’t in the hospital long enough for everyone to visit us.
I remember the nurse asking “Well, I know your husbands a pastor and you have had two pastors come and visit you, but I have to let you know that we have a pastor here who can also come and see you…” I chuckled. “Thank you, Um, I think I’m good.” I am surrounded by pastoral encouragement. And I state that in the most thankful way possible.
It’s been such a blessing to have so many wonderful people surround us with their encouragement, support and prayers during this time. We are so very thankful for God’s hand of encouragement through all of you.
I think the hardest thing I had to do through the whole thing was call the nurse to take Ava’s body, after we had said goodbye. I feel like I sat on the bed forever knowing it was time and working up the courage to really let go physically. Death takes over so quickly, it was time to let her body go.
I left the hospital that afternoon. It’s so hard to be at the hospital without a baby. So many things were reminding me of all the healthy children I had given birth to in rooms just like that one. So many things reminding of me of what would be like in a perfect world with Ava. But our world is not perfect, it’s broken from sin…and so I went home with no baby in my arms.
Though life may have long moments of sorrow, there is still joy.
I went home and got to hug my other “babies”( boys actually) that are still with us. Man does Elijah give the best hugs. Nothing starts mending a broken heart like a one year old squeezing your neck and slobbering your cheek.
Emily, Daniel’s sister, came to stay with us for about two weeks and help. The guest bedroom and house were ready since we had gotten things in order without even realizing how much it would help in the coming week. Emily was a huge help with everything, and it was so nice to have someone to love on the boys. Daniel and I didn’t have much left right after getting home. We didn’t have much left for weeks after getting home.
I’m glad Daniel got those weeks. Our church family was so supportive, letting him grieve at home without the having the burden of work. Pastor Aage was so gracious in covering the pulpit for those weeks. Andrew Little and the crew organizing Jr. High Winter Weekend were a blessing, in releasing Daniel from his speaking engagement on one of those weekends. We needed time to grieve as a family, and we were given it.
It takes a village, and our village took care of us so well. Between the food that was dropped off, the prayers that were felt, the flowers that were delivered, and the love that was poured all over us, we felt loved and cared for, and we are so appreciative of our friends and family across this continent, and our friends and family right here in Bergenfield.
There is so much still to write. But for now, I will leave it with just her delivery story.
As I said before I do not grieve without hope. Ava Hope is healed and whole now. We are the ones left to be healed.
And the Lord is healing us. We have good days and bad days. But God’s presence is here and carrying us through it all.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!