When I have days that are really hard, when I miss Savannah so badly that I can’t catch my breath, when I wake up after a nightmare or flashback from my traumatic delivery or E’s heart surgery, when I feel like a failure as a mom after a day filled with tantrums and my astounding lack of patience, when I can’t see God or hear him, when I don’t feel joyful or grateful like a Christian “should”, when I’m afraid to dream about the future because well, Savannah died so why wouldn’t the boys or Blake be taken away too, even amidst all of this doubt and fear: Jesus’ love is relentless. He pursues me. He sustains me. When this mama who hasn’t washed her hair in 3 days can snuggle her sweet little boy who woke up screaming from his nap after only 20min and whisper, “Mama’s here. Don’t be scared.” and have a heart so filled with joy at the privilege of just getting to hold and comfort her son, she can know for certain that Jesus hasn’t forgotten or forsaken her. I don’t know what’s in store for tomorrow, or why he’s allowed so much pain in my life, but I can thank him for loving me today.
Don’t forget that He is good. Never forget that He is good. When darkness closes in and you can’t touch, see, feel, hear-remember He is good. When you can’t understand. When you can’t make sense of what is happening. When lighting strikes once, twice, three times on the same freshly patched wound in your weary, weary heart; He is good. He is coming. He sees you and He knows. He knows. He remembers you. He has not let go. Through gritted teeth, hot angry tears, shallow breath, shaking, trembling hands, a voice screaming and sobbing you can’t even recognize. Remember; He is good. With your soul’s next breath; He is good.
The past few days have stirred up a lot of emotions, memories, and “flashbacks” surrounding both Savannah’s death and E’s heart surgery. A darling baby girl went to be with Jesus on Saturday. She was the much loved daughter of my sister-in-law’s dear friend. Ever since I learned about this little one and the health problems she had that might have prevented her from ever taking a first breath, I have prayed and pleaded for her life before the Lord. Deep in my heart I longed for her momma to get to take her daughter home. To raise her and care for her as she grew up on this earth. I did not want this family to experience the tragedy that I have lived. The hundreds of warriors that petitioned the Throne on her behalf, would not receive the answer they had desired. Yet, this little girl was a miracle. I am convinced that she brought an abundance of glory to her Father in her short time here. Still, a family weeps today and a nursery remains empty. And my heart is heavy. As my mind drifted back through the moments that brought me into the deepest darkness I have ever known, a beautiful memory emerged. Two days before we met our Savannah, before we knew anything was awry, I experienced one of the most enjoyable days of my pregnancy. The whole day I remember feeling really good. It was a Friday. Blake and I had plans to start our baby registry that evening after he came home from work. Until then, I would pass the time by babysitting my sweet nephew, “P”, who was only 8 or 9 months old. I remember that he was sleepy but did not want to lay down for a nap. Instead, I rocked him. As I rocked, I remember thinking with a smile that this was my first time to rock Savannah. Even though she was tucked inside, I still smiled and treasured that moment with her. I began to sing lullabies and “P” soon drifted off to sleep. I can’t really describe it but I remember feeling a strong spiritual presence in that moment and my heart was full of joy. Later that evening, Blake and I wandered the aisles of Target picking out various baby items for our girl. With my hand in his, I remember saying, “I’m just so happy. I don’t know what it is, but I’m just really happy today.” That would be that last time I felt that way in my pregnancy. From that evening on it was the beginning of the end. I truly believe that Savannah girl was taken to heaven on that Friday. I think the reason I sensed the presence of Jesus was because he was there leading my baby girl home. He let me rock her and sing to her and just be in love with her one last time while she moved and danced inside of me. I remembered that today and I know exactly who gave me that memory. He reaches down to me from time to time and extends his mercy in ways like this. I’m thankful. There is beauty in the ashes. I miss her so much today but I’m reminded again that she isn’t so very far away. Just a little while and I’ll rock my baby again.
I am often asked if E&E are my first or if they are my only children. I rarely answer yes, but I’m not always certain how to explain that I have three children. Most of the time my response is, “They have a big sister in Heaven.” or “We lost our daughter, our first baby.” Usually people are kind in their reply or give an understanding nod. It isn’t often the strangers that are uncomfortable with me talking about Savannah. I read this quote today and had to share it. I think all of us who have a little one in Heaven feel this way and we wish the rest of the world-especially our friends and family could understand. Thankfully, my family and most of my friends are very understanding. Sadly, not all of those who grieve have had the same support.
“I would not move forward if it meant leaving Emmy behind. I don’t know how anyone can pretend a child never existed, take down their pictures, remove their things…No, I do not leave her behind and “move on”, I move forward, with all 5 children–one running a bit ahead…just out of sight.”
Sometimes I daydream about when I’ll meet her for the first time. What will it be like? How old will she be in Heaven? How young will I be? Will she know that I’m her mommy? I know I should be looking forward the most to meeting Jesus face to face. After all, He is the very reason I will even see my girl again. But, I will admit that it is Savannah I hope to see first. I just can’t, in my limited human understanding, imagine anything better than running to her, taking her in my arms, and burring my face against her. Or maybe it would be better still for Jesus to take my hand, lead me to Savannah, and say, “Here is your daughter. I’ve kept her safe. You will never be separated again, I promise.” Yes, maybe that’s the way I hope for it to be. Trying to picture her is like chasing the memory of a shadow. I just can’t quite see her face. She is a silhouette and the image I love to daydream most is my silhouette holding hers.
My Little Girl,
I’m aching for you even more today. Sometimes the knife comes out of nowhere and cuts so very deep. I long to touch you and hold you this morning. You fill a place in my heart that was made just for you. You were supposed to be here. There should be three high chairs at our kitchen table. I should be chasing three toddlers. I should be hearing your little voice saying your first sentences. What I would give to have a normal day with you. To kiss your sweet little head when you wake up. To dress you and brush those beautiful locks of hair. To play with you. To comfort you. To feed you. To tuck you in tonight and kiss your cheek. Sometimes it seems unbearable to wait for Heaven. But I know you are where God wanted you to be. And I know that my work here is not complete. So it will be a little while longer until I come to you, Savannah. I love you my sweet girl. Always.
I am extremely late in posting about Savannah’s first birthday. We celebrated her life with Christ on her real birthday, December 4th. We had a birthday party at our house with our families. I really struggled with how to have a birthday party for a little girl who isn’t here. I wondered if I was weird for wanting to have a party at all. What if no one wanted to come? What if no one talked about her or acknowledged her during the party? I wasn’t sure if that was a risk worth taking. It’s hard to explain that emotional vulnerability but it was one of the main issues that I debated over in the decision to have a birthday party. In the end, I am so glad that we chose to do it. It was truly a special day and a beautiful party that I think she would have loved. We spent the day taking flowers and a balloon to her park, going to a birthday lunch, and decorating for the party. Our immediate families came over for dinner, cake and hot chocolate that evening. The mood was joyful and everyone acknowledged Savannah in such a sweet way. We had a hot chocolate bar and pretty pink cookies that Savannah’s Aunt Laurel made. Her cake was beautiful and tasted even better than it looked. Three of our nephews blew out her candle after we sang “Happy Birthday.” When everyone left and the house was quiet, I really was okay. Blake and I sat together in the living room and reflected on Savannah and what she must be doing in heaven now. For a day that had been dreaded for weeks, it really was more joyful than painful. Here are a few pictures. If I can encourage another grieving parent about how to handle that first birthday without your sweet baby, I hope you will choose to celebrate.
Happy first birthday sweet baby. I wish I were with you to celebrate. You are such a blessing to me. I can not wait to meet you, little one. Mommy and Daddy asked Jesus to hold you and kiss you for us. We miss you so much baby. Wait for us, we will come to you. We love you, always.
On January 19th, 2013 Savannah’s two baby brothers were born. What a relief and joy it was to have not just one, but two living , breathing infants to hold. The Lord heard our prayers and he filled our empty arms abundantly beyond what we asked or could have imagined-just as his word promised. My heart is filled with such gratitude. I’ll not forget what he has done for me. I am the proud mother of three. THREE! Who am I that he would allow three of his precious children to be conceived in my womb? Who am I that he would grant me the honor of being their mother? I am nothing without his grace and mercy. All I have to offer is my desire to serve him well in my role as their mother. I still struggle with how my role as Savannah’s mother applies while she is in heaven and I remain here. My longing for her hasn’t changed and I continue to wonder if I will really be her mother in heaven. I try to give this struggle over to God when it surfaces and trust that whatever a mother does for or with her children in heaven truly is better than that relationship on earth. In the mean time, I am simply humbled and thankful for the two that I get to care for right now. To be exhausted because of my babies is one of the greatest gifts I have ever known. It is even better than I had hoped. Just two weeks after bringing E&E home from the hospital, we made the trip to Savannah’s park. We brought Savannah her “Big Sister” cross and told her how proud we are of her and all about her baby brothers. We told E&E how lucky they are to have Savannah. In moments like those, I catch the faintest glimpse of what our family will be like when we are all in our real home. I am thankful that God has opened my heart and my eyes to see how good and how loving he is not in spite of my suffering, but because of my suffering. It is not because of my strength or my will that I love him more since losing Savannah. It is a testimony to the sufficiency of his grace.
On this blog, I have shared the links to several songs that we dedicated to Savannah Girl. Every time I hear one of them, I feel like God just gave me a special blessing. Yesterday, I was driving to the hospital to be monitored for contractions. I heard “All of Me” on the radio and tears filled my eyes. Savannah had been on my mind all morning. Exactly one year ago yesterday, we found out that she was a girl. This picture was taken after our celebration dinner that night. It was one of the happiest days of my life. We were so incredibly excited. We had no way of knowing that in just a few weeks our baby girl would leave us. I felt like God played that song for me yesterday. It’s like he was reminding me that he has not forgotten our pain and that Savannah is still safe with him in heaven. He is keeping her for us until we come to her. If you haven’t listened to “All of Me”, please do. Below are the lyrics to my favorite part of the song.
“Heaven brought you to this moment. It’s too wonderful to speak.
You’re worth all of me, You’re worth all of me.
So let me recklessly love you, even if I bleed.
You’re worth all of me. You’re worth all of me.”
You are worth all of my heart. Every tear and every pain I’ve had since you left is worth loving you. I will never stop loving you. I long for you every day. I know we will be together again in heaven, and when that day comes, nothing will ever separate us again. You are my sweet Savannah Girl forever.
A number of months have passed since my last post. I continue to write to Savannah in my journal, but I have had a difficult time writing here. A few weeks after Savannah’s due date, God touched my womb and blessed us with another pregnancy. I am carrying Savannah’s twin brothers. We are so incredibly thankful for the gift of more children. I had actually been praying that God would restore to me twofold as he did for Job after he lost his children. It’s funny how the Spirit leads you to pray in ways that you would not have prayed on your own. I never thought I would want twins, but knowing that (if the Lord is willing) my arms will be full after such emptiness makes my heart overflow with joy and gratitude.
This pregnancy has been hard. I knew that being pregnant again after losing our Savannah Girl would be hard. I struggled with fear. I was afraid that there would be no heartbeat on that first visit to the doctor. I was afraid that I would have bleeding episodes again. I was afraid that God would ask me to give up another child. I was afraid that somehow Savannah would feel like she was being replaced. I was afraid that I would never get to feel the babies kick. I was afraid that my body would fail. I was afraid that my love for these new babies wouldn’t be as strong as my love for Savannah. I was afraid that I wouldn’t ever have another little girl. Some of these fears still surface, but God has been so gentle and kind to me during this time. He surrounds me with peace and has placed such loving family and friends in our lives who continue to pray for our children. If I’ve learned anything through losing my baby girl, it is that God really is enough for me. I am so thankful that he helped me to finally grasp the understanding of that promise. However, I don’t ever want to go through that pain again. He knows that. He knows where I am and he knows that I am still sometimes afraid. He loves me anyway and helps me to keep walking with him. Do you know how wonderful our Father is?
As for my fears, some of them are real. On the first office visit, there was no heartbeat because it was too early in the pregnancy to detect one. But, we had the incredible blessing of seeing two gestational sacs-our first clue that I might be pregnant with twins! A week later, there were two healthy heartbeats, praise God.
I did have a few bleeding episodes. After one episode, about 9 weeks along, we even had to return to the very same ultrasound room in the hospital where we were the night we learned that our Savannah’s precious heart had stopped beating. That was honestly one of the most traumatic days for us. We both were white with fear while we waited to see if the ultrasound tech could detect our babies’ heartbeats. God was there, and he held us close. This time, we were relieved to see that our babies were still okay.
I am still struggling with the fear that God might choose to take another one or both of my children home. I have to give this over to him often. Any parent who has been through this before knows the reality that none of us are promised tomorrow. But, we have the opportunity to practice our faith that God is doing his good and perfect will-even when it hurts. We have to trust his plan for our children and rest in the assurance of eternal life with our little ones in heaven.
I still fear that Savannah will be forgotten. Not by me, but by her family. I am afraid that her brothers won’t want to know about her. I am afraid that our families will stop talking about her. I am afraid that her memory will be shoved aside. My heart couldn’t stand it! Now that I am pregnant again, I have been hearing such statements as, “You are going to be a great mom.” Or, to both Blake and me, “You will make wonderful parents.” But I already AM a mom! We already ARE parents! I became a mother in August of 2011. We began loving Savannah with a fierce love from the moment we learned she was in my womb. I know the comments are well-intended but they do sting. Parents don’t stop being parents just because their baby is no longer here on earth. I’ll never stop being Savannah’s mom. I heard a quote recently that says, “The most difficult time to be a parent is when you have no child to hold.” I am trusting in God to help me with these fears too.
I just knew that at least one of my sweet babies was another little girl. We had already decided on her name. I was truly shocked on the day we learned that two baby boys are growing inside of me. I didn’t realize how much of my healing was coming from imagining another little girl. I thought that somehow if I could do some of the things I never got the chance to do with Savannah Girl, that I would feel reconnected to her again. I still hope for another little girl some day, but God has helped me to embrace my two baby boys. He reminded me that he created these boys for his purposes. Our children aren’t our accessories. We don’t go to the store and pick out boy or girl, blonde or brunette, blue or brown eyes. They are a gift from the Lord and HE creates them exactly the way he wants them to be. My boys were boys the moment they were conceived and it wasn’t a surprise just because I had to wait 15 weeks to find that out.
I am falling in love with these boys more every day. At just 14 weeks, God gave me the gift of being able to feel their movements. As they are growing bigger and stronger, these movements can be very uncomfortable but I wouldn’t trade the privilege of feeling them for anything. We have reached the milestone of the third trimester and I am so thankful. I pray that God allows them to stay safe inside of me until they are strong enough to survive in the world. I can’t wait to hold them in my arms and hear their cries. I can’t wait to tell them about their big sister in heaven. I can’t wait to teach them about the mighty God who created them. I can’t wait to rock them and sing to them. I even look forward to being up in the night with them. (Remind me that I said that when they get here.)
If you are reading this post and you are still waiting for God to fill your empty arms, don’t lose hope. I am praying with you. I still don’t understand God’s timing at all. I don’t know why some couples can get pregnant on the first try and others have to wait so long. It doesn’t seem fair. Keep going before the Lord with your heartache and desires. He hears you every time and he never tires of you. He loves you and he has good plans for you.
27 “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore also I have lent [her] to the Lord; as long as [she] liveth [she] shall be lent to theLord. And [she] worshipped the Lord there.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28
This was the day. The day anticipated since we first found out about little Savannah. It wasn’t going to come soon enough. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect day. My due date. After December 4, 2011, it became a day I feared and dreaded in the depths of my heart. How was I going to face this day? It was supposed to be a day of complete joy. I was going to meet my baby girl, finally! I imagined everything about that time. Blake driving me to the hospital, the long labor, the tears in our eyes when we heard her first cry. The weight of her precious body in my arms. Looking into her sweet face for the first time. Handing her to our parents to meet their first granddaughter. But, May 3rd came and there was no Savannah. No cry, no one to hold, no sweet face to gaze into, no granddaughter to introduce.
In preparation to face this day, I asked for advice from several moms who have been in my shoes. I even asked my grief counselor. I prayed daily for weeks that God would help me find a way to make it through the day and that I would be able to honor my sweet girl in some way. On May 1st I still didn’t know what to do. May 2nd, my loving husband helped me come up with a plan. We decided that we wanted to spend the day celebrating our daughter and the life she had with us as well as the full life she has now with Jesus. We wanted to focus on the joy of being her parents. And by God’s grace, that’s exactly what we were able to do.
We woke up early and spent time in the Word. Then we went to get some coffee and to pick out flowers for our Savannah Girl. We headed out to her “park” with a vase and baby pink roses. It was a beautiful morning. We told her how much we love her and that we miss her every moment. After a little while, we went to the spa to get massages thanks to the gift card from a dear friend. It was a great way to relax and enjoy time together as we reflected on our blessings. We left the spa and headed to lunch. The afternoon was spent walking through the Myriad Gardens and writing letters to our baby. We also visited the art museum…and quickly realized we are not very appreciative of modern art. For dinner, we went to a restaurant downtown and ate on the patio. We ended the evening by watching a movie at home. It was really a good day and I honestly never expected that I would be able to say that. I knew God was holding my hand all day and helping me keep my focus on Him. I am so thankful for my daughter. I don’t think I can ever fully express how much I love my Savannah or how proud and honored I am to be her mother. I am so blessed to be Blake’s wife. He loves Savannah so well and it is incredible to see the father of my daughter honor and adore his little girl.
If there is anyone who is reading this that has lost a baby and is worried about facing that due date, please know that I am praying for you. My advice is to recognize that it will be hard. Everything you imagined about that day is different now. Hopefully you have family and friends who recognize this reality and are supportive. Tell God how you feel and ask him to help you make a plan for that day. Don’t worry if the night before your due date, you still don’t know what to do. Remember that it is not your responsibility to justify the existence of your precious child. Jesus did that for you. You don’t have to bear that burden. He died for your sweet baby (and mine) just as much as he died for all of us who live on earth. Your child has purpose still. Your child is no less significant than the babies here on earth. If you are in Christ, your baby is a much greater part of your future than your past. Let God hold you close on your due date. My grief counselor said to me, “If you need to shed tears that day, let them be tears of joy.” This was helpful to me, but know that it is okay if your tears are tears of sorrow. Jesus understands. He is not disappointed in you.
If you are a family member or friend of someone who has lost a sweet baby, remember them on their due date. I was so honored by my family and friends who called, sent flowers, and wrote messages. They acknowledged my daughter and to me, there was no greater gift that day. You don’t have to have “the right words” because there are no words that will fix this. Throughout these past weeks, Luke 2:19 comes to my mind very often, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Every acknowledgement of my Savannah-her life, her name, her purpose, her beauty, her place in our families, of me as her mother, of the pain and loss I am experiencing, is a greater blessing than I can say. I treasure every one of these gifts and I do ponder them often.
May 3rd, 2012 was not at all the day I expected it to be. But, it was a day to be joyful in the Lord and to be thankful for my little girl. It was a day to witness first hand the strength and power of God sustaining me. I did get to experience some of the things I had imagined surrounding the birth of my daughter. I did get to deliver her. Blake and I did get to hold her. Although it was with tears of sorrow, we did have the privilege of gazing into her sweet face. Her heart was still, but we felt the weight of her precious body in our arms. Although completely broken, my heart still swelled with pride when I placed her in the arms of each of her loving grandparents. Yes, my arms are still empty right now, but my heart is full. I give thanks to my Lord for He is good; His love for me endures forever.