I recently discovered Kelly’s blog and earlier this week she started the Walking With You series for people who have lost a child to join in discussing their journeys and having the opportunity to encourage and support one another. I am going to try to join up each week…
For those of you who have been following our story from the beginning, much of this will be a recap. At the end of March of 2012 I was 30 weeks pregnant with my third child, a girl, whom we had already named Naomi Ruth. Her two older brothers (5.5 and 2.5 at the time) were anxiously awaiting her arrival with a due date in May. My midwife had scheduled a routine ultrasound at 30 weeks, in addition to the 20 week growth scan. Everything had looked great at 20 weeks and with two previous healthy, normal pregnancies I nearly put off the 30 week scan all together. I was nearly 32 weeks by the time I got in for the ultrasound. It was in that room, on a Thursday afternoon that I found out Naomi’s heart was greatly enlarged and there were some serious problems with the structure of the left side of her heart, specifically her tricuspid valve. Over the next two days and a whirlwind of appointments we found out just how sick our baby girl was already. She was diagnosed with severe Ebstein’s Anomaly and functional pulmonary atresia. Her tricuspid valve was severely deformed and the blood flow in her heart was completely reversed. There were already signs of the beginning of heart failure as there was a small amount of fluid around her heart. Over the next four weeks we went three times a week to see a fetal cardiologist as they monitored Naomi’s heart and waited to give her as much time as possible before delivery. Amazingly, her heart stayed stable, with no further deterioration over that period of time as she was able to grow. We loved her and prayed for her and tried to prepare for whatever might lie ahead.
From our conversations with the doctors we knew that the first few hours of Naomi’s life would be the most critical as the blood flow in her heart needed to be reversed. We knew that the likelyhood of surgery within the first days of her life was quite high. But we were also hopeful that if she made it through the first few days and weeks she would be able to make it.
On April 23rd when I went in for my routine (by that time) checkup we saw that additional fluid had accumulated on her heart and now around her lungs. The decision was made to induce and on April 25th Naomi came into this world. She did have surgery that night, which saved her life that time. At two and a half weeks old she had another open heart surgery which closed off her tricuspid valve and began the process of giving her a single ventricle heart, which would have resulted in at least two more future surgeries. While Naomi did well initially after surgery, by about six weeks old she developed an infection which we were never able to diagnose or treat and at eight weeks and two days old she passed from my arms into the arms of Jesus on June 22nd. In His arms she was healed and I had the sacred privilege of ushering my daughter both into and out of this world. I have never known such deep love and deep sorrow at the same moment.
It has been about six and a half months since that day. The first two months were a fog of confusion and pain as we attempted to put our life back together, a life that was totally disrupted, especially for our boys, for about four months. I struggled just to get through the days but one day at a time I did make it through, finding always the sufficient grace of my God meeting me in each dark hour. I went back to work and Adrin went back to being with the boys while I was at work while working part time as well. I felt that the days went by much too quickly. In my heart time had stopped and yet the world continued to move forward, one week, two weeks, quickly a month and then two had passed.
Right around the two month mark Adrin and I were able to attend a weekend retreat with other couples who had lost a child, hosted by David and Nancy Guthrie, who themselves have lost two children. That weekend was a breath of fresh air and hope, hope for healing and for the grace to continue walking this very difficult path. I continue to be encouraged by Nancy’s writing and by what we learned and some of the friendships we made that weekend. It was a key step for me in moving on the road of healing. I was able to actually hope for healing. I began to think of our loss as a deep wound, a wound that, in time, with proper care, would heal. There would always be a scar, the memory of our precious daughter, but the intense pain, the raw emotions that carried me through each day, would fade. This is something I’ve been told over and over by others who have walked this path ahead of me. I have determined to cling to Jesus and ask Him to heal my heart.
Slowly, so slowly, I feel like I am beginning to see signs of healing. These past six months have been the most difficult that I’ve experienced in my life. Yet at the same time I feel like I’ve been able to experience deeper joy in some moments that ever before. There are many ways in which I still feel shattered, yet at the same time I’ve been able to function a little bit better with each passing month. I’ve also, more recently, been able to dwell more on the joy and sweetness of Naomi’s life rather than being overwhelmed by the suffering of her brief life on this earth, as I was during much of the past six months. Finally, my hope for heaven, my longing to see God restore and renew this broken world has grown so intensely.
I feel like this posts makes my grief sound far too neat and tidy. It has been anything but as my dear husband and close family and friends can attest to. I’ve found life has become far messier than I ever imagined it could be. And I find that daily I have to seek and sometimes fight for even a glimpse of joy. Then there are those days I’m too tired to fight. So I don’t. And that’s ok, too. In it all I know that God is good and He is with me, every moment.