Holding love and loss in your arms

October 21, 2017

How do I begin to write of this ending?

What a trip to be here reliving it all and come to grips with the fact that the dreaded event itself is already over so soon and so sudden. Part of me is embracing these last two days because of how close Ethan still feels and how vivid my memories are and how soaked in love I have felt by people near and far. Part of me is terrified of when that will all stop and change. Most of me is bracing for every new minute and trying to remember I do not walk alone in this. My family and I now step onto the unknown emotional path of processing this pain and ache and longing. Now is when faith and trust and future hope are in great demand and will be challenged the most. Now is when the truth is more powerful than any doubt or fear. Now is when it is so difficult to allow that truth to overcome all the waves of overflowing sadness and grief.

The truth is that Ethan is being snuggled and adored by my sweet grandparents and is enveloped in His heavenly Father’s arms of perfect peace. I know this in my mind but my heart still longs for him to be here with me in my arms. Such a strange paradox. The truth is that Ethan is whole and fulfilled and gone from pain and anguish and suffering. I know this in my mind but I ache to have him back in this broken place with me. The truth is that God knew Ethan’s life would change me and teach me and show our family a unique lesson about unconditional love. I know this in my mind but selfishly I wish I didn’t have to learn it in this way. My emotions will battle with the truth for years to come.

As soon as my water broke, I broke. I knew. I knew that his time would come too soon and I knew it meant that I could no longer hold on to the hope of keeping him growing with me here. It felt like his death sentence was finally being carried out and I was forced to be a part of it. It broke the spell of this being a bad dream and only a future horror. I cried the hardest then, out of fear and anger and sadness and my loss of the last of my control. Ethan was always in God’s hands but I felt like I was robbed again of the only thing I would ever want. More time.

After that, everything amplified and my body kicked into electric primal mode and we were forced to detour and stop at the closest ER. It wasn’t where our planned doctor and team was. It wasn’t a hospital we knew much about. If Josh hadn’t pressed for it, I would’ve had Ethan in our bathtub at home. My body was begging me to. Instead I went through the most intense part of my labor in the car and it is not one for the bucket list. Josh was wise to urge me to get to somewhere safer. Looking back,  I could’ve given birth to him in the car, the parking lot, the ER waiting room, or the endless hallway, but by God’s mercy I was able to make it to a hospital bed with a team of wonderful nurses before he arrived. The time between my water breaking at my house to having Ethan in the hospital was about 50 minutes. A gift and a heartache. So brutally fast but not fast enough to meet my precious son earthside.

All my fears felt realized when my water broke. Somehow I think I knew that he would have to leave and I wouldn’t know when and that the physical pain I would be in would keep me from being present for him in that moment. I could sense him and feel him kick while I knelt there on the floor after his protective fluid started to drain, and I think the last time he moved with life in my belly was during the intense contractions on our 10 minute drive in the car.

Seeing him here was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. He looked so perfect in some ways and so broken in others. Even so, his physical damage did nothing to diminish his beauty to me. His cheeks were so soft and perfect to kiss and his nose and lips were tiny and incredibly soft and beautiful. He was a soul entrusted to me and given back to my Jesus on his 33rd week birthday. To the day.

I’m 33 years old and I have jokingly called this my Jesus year. (bc Jesus lived on earth 33 years) I never thought of that silly label as anything more than a way to make 33 seem like a less boring number, but now I think God has chosen to use it as another way to comfort me. Another way to help my simple mind realize His eternal perspective. This is my Jesus year because He knew I would need Him to carry me and understand my brokenness and give me grace to survive my pain. He knew what I would face long before I did and long before I claimed my year in that way. In response to every detail I was so afraid of and all the anxiety I had about Ethan’s birth, God’s hands were moving and directing our path and those who came on it with us. This is my Jesus year indeed.

A lesson learned on Wednesday is that a good nurse is an angel walking. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is a fact. Everyone we had attending to us, from the social worker to the RNs, to the lactation counselor or the OB, were incredibly respectful, helpful, calming and gracious. I felt like I was meant to be in that room and everyone who came in the door was given to us as a new source of encouragement or comfort. I am absolutely not one to be overly complimentary and a sad truth about my personality is that I can be very skeptical and guarded unless you can prove I should feel otherwise. That said, every single person who came in and out of our door was a blessing. I had spent painstaking hours and invested so much energy into writing a very specific birth plan and had arrangements of all kinds planned for this day in a different city in a different hospital, with all my fears hanging in the balance. God watched over us as every plan we had was undone and we were merely trying to survive the night.

Of course, most of my intensity in planning was due to my extreme desire to be possessive of my short time with Ethan. Every second would count, and if only I had it all figured out on paper and got everyone on board, I could somehow rig the system for us. I worried about having to deal with the disregard of my birth plan or insensitive nurses or emergency intervention that would keep me from being present to meet my Ethan. We wanted so much for the short time to be protected and precious. I cannot begin to explain how impossible it should’ve been to have everything go as peacefully and smoothly as it did. We were in a complete whirlwind that night. There’s no way all of my planning could have ever done as perfect of a job as His planning did. His timing was perfect and even though I will never understand why brutal, painful things happen, I have more trust than ever that His ways are higher than our ways and He desires that none of us should ever have to walk through the fire alone.

Hospital food is still horrible though, by the way. I guess the angels in the hospital didn’t extend to the kitchen 😁

Here are some of our moments with our boy. Nothing can ever take away the time we had to hold him and kiss his cheeks and marvel at his tiny little body that once held his spirit. Please remember him and send prayers our way as we miss him and ache for a different ending to all of this. Thank you for giving your time to read about our family. Now I beg for God to continue to use Ethan’s short life to help teach me how to live out my days here. I don’t want to waste all the chances for growth that can come from being so broken down. Ethan, you will always be the gift I wanted to keep but had to give back. Momma loves you with everything I am, my precious son.

From earthside to heavenside in 33 weeks.

<<<<

Both the blankets in the photos and the hat that protected Ethan’s head were handmade by my sister Hannah and two special moms I know, Cathy and Rose. I am so grateful to have had these gifts for him.<<<<<<<

Author: Heather-Lynn

I am a perfect dichotomy. I am a cynic, but I champion hope. I aspire to be many things but I limit myself to being only a few. I am an ambitious mother and a happy wife. I am a explorer who likes to be grounded. I am a writer who doesn't often write. I love making music as a shy singer. I am an old soul and a young mind. This is my life and I like it very much. Please enjoy.

18 thoughts on “Holding love and loss in your arms”

  1. Heather, what you have written is beautiful. I am a grieving grandmother who just lost a precious grandson, Ezra Burke, to anencephaly. I have awakened the last 2 mornings aching to hold that precious baby again. Praise God for eternity. I want you to know that mothers like you and my daughter who choose to carry and love courageously a spirit who may only have a short time on this earth, are truly heroes. God bless you as you continue this journey.

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    1. Lori I already have so much love and real empathy for you and your family and sweet Ezra. I’m sure your daughter needed you to walk with her and love on her throughout her pain as much as I needed my mom. You grandmas have double heartache because you grieve for your baby and your baby’s baby. I’m so sorry and I will ask our God of comfort to carry you all through this too. Lots of prayers for you and lots of tears. Thank you for your encouragement and sisterhood in this.

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      1. I lost my little girl in 1979, with anencephaly. A dear lady told me something and I want to share it with you. She said, “The Angel’s are singing and your little girl is with them and always, always remember…..Heaven is a little sweeter now………” Heaven has got to be a wonderful place with all of our little babies who have gone before us and our loved ones there also. Loosing a baby makes the thought of leaving this earth some day, so sweet. I can’t wait to see Courtney and hold her in my arms. Hugs to you and your family.

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      2. I absolutely agree that eternity is welcomed and will be a day of celebration in a new way I’ve never thought of. Our babies give us so much in such a short time. I am so sorry that you had to say goodbye to your Courtney. Thank you for sharing the truth of where are beautiful babies are and reminding me of all the hope we have. Love to you and yours.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your heart and Ethan with us in your transparent writing! A Momma’s heart loves forever through it all! Continuing to pray through it all…may you sense the Lord in your grief, may you always write what HE shows you in the days and years to come for your sake and the sake of others and may you continue to love fully without hesitation!

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    1. Thank you for your beautiful prayer, friend. Your words have truth and I will try and hold the truth close and live my life with love, and try and turn the pain into love for others. Please keep us in your prayers

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  3. I love you so much and cannot begin to tell you how much God is shining through you in this. I’m also crying with you and praying for you. I know it’s been years since I’ve seen you in person, but you will forever be special to me. You are one of the bravest women I know.

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  4. I cried the entire way through.
    sincerely thank you Heather for sharing such intimate feelings and a difficult experience with everyone. It has really helped me in particular being in the same situation.
    -lots of love and prayers for your family-

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    1. Have been thinking and praying for you since Nina. I remember you saying you were in San Diego and that helped me think of you. I will pray that God will be faithful to you as you trust in Him to get through this and embrace every painful beautiful part of loving your sweet little one.

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  5. I do not know you but your writing brought me to tears. It is so hard to give glory to Him when it feels like our lives are falling apart and we’re in the middle of trials. We are studying James right now and I have always struggled with the concept of being joyful during trials. But your obedience to acknowledge God’s reign over your life and how he chases after your heart is truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. Im so grateful to you for reaching out. It means everything to me to know that I am not alone in this.
      I know God chases after all of us so tirelessly, and always wants to be able to bring good out of even the most devastating parts of life. And I think as far as the passage in James, I think Ive found that joy is very possible, whereas happiness or feeling “ok” or “fine” or “good” in the midst of trials is usually not. It feels more like phrase from that song, “It is well with my soul.” Hard to describe, but if something this difficult can require me to fall into Gods arms, then there is joy in that time because thats what its like when you feel like He is with you. Crazy concept but I get what James was saying. I wonder if James ever lost a baby or had a great tragedy occur. I haven’t studied his life enough. Curious to have a phrase like that come from someone who hasn’t had personal experience with the paradox of joy in the midst of trials. Anyway I am rambling. I appreciate you feeling this with us and reaching out with encouragement. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  6. Oh Heather, what a heart you have. I am sending love and hugs your way. Ethan is so loved. Honestly, reading your journey now has me missing him. Thank you for sharing your story with us all. I have no doubt your heart reaches all the right people. Love and prayers to you and your precious family.

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    1. Leah❤️ the best gift you could ever give me is to care for and miss my boy. So special for you to say that and thank you for validating my feelings and my heart and my pain. Love you and thank you for praying. Please keep the prayers coming. we need them

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