On this day seventeen years ago, I gave birth to a sleeping little girl. She was a full-term baby weighing in at 7lbs, 150z. She was 21.5 inches long. I labored for fifteen hours….half of which were horrific, until an angel came into the room (anesthesiologist) and administered an epidural. It had not been on my “birth plan.” I had intended to give birth as naturally as possible three weeks later. I discovered that birth plan in my bag on a trip to the bathroom, and ripped it up. That was the day I learned the hard way to “hold loosely to MY plans”. Suddenly all of those interventions that so many people scoff at, hate, and avoid, saved me from horrific pain, and unnecessary suffering. When the back labor was so bad that I was screaming loud enough for the hospital to hear, I didn’t hesitate for one second to take advantage of those things that I believe God gave us for our help...when needed.
Not many people know how awful that birth was for me. Madison had a condition called shoulder dystocia. They did not know this until she was already on her way out. Had we known, I probably would have been taken to surgery for a c-section (and had I known the terrible pain the next 6 weeks would involve, I would have gone willingly). Basically she got stuck. I believe with all of my heart that God took her when He did to spare us the utter horror of possibly losing her during birth. It took the work of my OB and two nurses to get her out, and not without horrible battle scars for both of us. They x-rayed Madison after birth to make sure they didn’t break any bones .
The minute she was born and our doctor announced that we had a girl, the silence and calm of the room was replaced with a flurry of activity. I felt my head spin and pound, I got short of breath, my heart pounded and raced, and I had one of the first and worst panic attacks of my life. I was SO afraid to look. I felt them place my daughter on my belly, and I heard voices telling me to open my eyes and look at her. Andy whispered in my ear that I should look…she was lovely.
The truth is, death is not “pretty”. She was a beautiful baby, but she was dead. Her coloring was dark, her nail beds were all dark, her lips were the darkest I had ever seen, and every time her head leaned back, her mouth would open as there was no control to close it. I had to make sure I held her in such a way that her mouth stayed closed….but I fell in love.
From the minute my eyes opened, and I got acquainted with that precious girl, I could not take my eyes off of her. I never stopped looking at her as the nurses and my mom got her dressed, and I watched her as family members held her throughout the night. When the few hours we had with her came to an end, I didn’t want to let her go. It was one of the most painful moments of my life…the moment they wheeled her out of our room in her bassinet to take her to pathology. The only moment that topped that on the pain scale was the moment I had to get up and walk away from her grave knowing that the minute I left, they were going to put her little casket in the cold dark ground, and that was FINAL for this life. Actually, I went back that evening and fell to the ground in a heap of tears when I saw the already wilting flowers, and the “mommy” banner that had topped her casket laying in a huge mound of dirt. It literally broke my heart…
This is the reality of my experience. I left the hospital with no baby in my arms. She was our first, so I went home to an empty apartment. I closed the door to a nursery we had just finished the day before, and moved a ready bassinet back into that nursery from our bedroom. An apartment I had LOVED, suddenly became a place I hated, and I couldn’t stand to be there anymore.
There was something about all I had experienced in that week that changed me forever. Holding a dead child does something to your psyche. I knew that I would never be the same person I was before that week. One day I’ll share exactly where this experience took me, because it was a very dark and awful road I never want to repeat. I did not reach out for those hands that hold my daughter, and did not cling to that faith I once had. I let hurt, anger, bitterness, and the lies of the evil one consume me and take me to a place I never want to go again.
This is an awful story. There were some lovely, beautiful moments intertwined with the horrific ones that awful week, but for the most part it was a heartbreaking experience for both Andy and me. Thankfully He clung to his faith, grabbed onto God with all of his might, and he became the instrument of grace that God used to carry me through and bring me out the other side.
We are not in the depths of despair. Our grief, though a lifelong journey, really only causes us to struggle this one week of the year, during holidays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and times when she is missing out on times as a family. God has restored joy to our household, and we are TRULY happy. We have two AMAZING children that God has gifted us with, and we can’t imagine life without them. They are at the ages now that we can share Madison’s story with them, and it is a beautiful thing. They both have the most caring and sensitive hearts, and I believe it is because of all we have been through as a family. They never met their sister, but they were surely a part of the aftermath of her death, and experienced as little ones the horror of all that their momma went through as a result. It was sin…plain and simple. It’s ok to grieve, but not the way I did. I almost took my whole family down with me.
But God…He has “restored the years the swarming locusts have eaten”, and He graciously and lovingly put us back together. He has healed my heart and my mind, He has forgiven me for those dark years, and has given me another chance as a wife/mother/daughter/sister/friend (well 3 out of 5 maybe…for some, what I did was too much to forgive). He has given us HOPE, and though we continue to grieve, and it will be something we do for the rest of our lives, we grieve with that hope that we will see our daughter again…so it doesn’t consume me as it once did. What seemed to us to be for evil, God has made good. It’s not EVER a good thing for your baby to die, but what God has done in and through us, and for other people because of Madison’s life….that is the good.
We were leveled by that frowning providence God took us through. It very nearly destroyed us. But God only let us go so far before He reached in and pulled us out of that pit. He set our feet on a rock, and gave us a new song to sing! And though that song will always have a hint of sadness and grief behind it, it is also filled with great JOY for all He has done for us, and given to us. We will never “get over” that loss…it was horrific. It is a part of who we are, and we are stronger, more loving, and more grateful people because of that experience. Those lessons we learned in the dark, have made us the kind of people we are in the light, and we love more deeply, trust more deeply, forgive more deeply, and worship more deeply because of them. God is good…ALL THE TIME. He can be trusted, depended on, and we can rest knowing He is the sovereign God of the universe…in control of every aspect of our lives.
Happy Birthday Madison Elisabeth…we all miss you, and love you so much! One day Daddy, Parker, Morgan, you and I will all be together again, and it will be for eternity. No more tears, no more pain, just happy happy happy forevermore!