I held my breath much of my entire pregnancy with Briella, wondering, anticipating, daring to believe that the child I was carrying would actually live outside of my womb longer than a few hours. Is this real? How do I hold in tension the fear, all of what I previously knew of new life ending in death so soon, and the hope that part of God’s goodness this side of heaven for our family would also include another child who could live? Life is in His hands, always. And that both frees me and frightens me. I am not in control. Releasing control, releasing fear, trusting in God’s goodness to me in life and in death has been the constant wrestle of my heart these past nine months.
July 2nd was a day filled with the collision of all the tension of fear and hope and so much joy. I sat in the room that would be my recovery room and my pre-c-section prep room and nervously anticipated the physical pain of needles and spinals and recovery while eagerly waiting to see my little girl lifted out of me.
I had prayed that God would guide our time, meet me in those places in the hospital that I had been before and had induced much trauma in the midst of the joy of the life of my first two daughters. I had prayed that God would lead who would be our nursing staff, wondering and hoping that it would be as sweet (albeit different) then our experiences with Sophie and Dasah. And God did not disappoint.
Two wonderful nurses greeted us, cared for me and listened to my fears. Kevin, by my side, calmed me with his words and presence when things triggered the trauma and memories of anticipating saying goodbye to my first two daughters.
As I was getting prepped, I heard a familiar voice at the door and looked up to see Nancy. Nancy was one of Dasah’s NICU nurses who gently and carefully cared for her and us for her entire life. I didn’t know which nurses still worked at that same hospital we had delivered Dasah in but I had hoped I would see them. Tears flooded my eyes seeing her, remembering her holding Dasah, bringing her to us in the OR and helping us know how she was doing. We asked if there was any way she could be in the OR with us this time and she said she would try. Soon after, another woman, Kelly came in who proceeded to tell us she was the daughter of Lynn, the other NICU nurse who had cared for Dasah and was the last one who tenderly held her body and cared for her as we said goodbye to her nearly 4 years ago. Kelly would be assisting the spinal in the OR, she knew our story and had no idea I would be one of her first patients that day.
Dr. A and Dr. KJ, both my doctors who had journeyed with us through Sophie and Dasah were there to deliver this sweet little girl. I knew I was in good hands, that the Lord was with us in the midst of my fears of the OR room and simply being cut open again (I hate needles and surgery and basically anything that will induce physical pain). And for the third time, I was wheeled into the OR room to meet my daughter, only this time flooded with the emotions that I would not be meeting death but life. It felt like too much, too unbelievable, too wonderful. My mom and sister and Kevin were by my side, until they had to leave while I was taken into the OR, Kevin to follow after my prep was done. The smile you see below masks all the emotion I was feeling in that moment!
The space in the OR felt similar to before. I held onto Dr.K while they did the spinal as I had done with Dasah and I’m pretty sure I was squeezing her so hard I must have been constricting her airflow. She never complained and spoke words of encouragement into my heart in that cold, sterile place as my new playlist “Hope” played in the background. Kevin quickly came in after I was prepped, although it felt like an eternity until he was there, holding my hand, looking intently into my eyes, praying. Just as he did with Sophie and with Dasah. And then Dr. K said I’d feel pressure and I knew she was coming and I was taken back to those moments remembering when I felt that same pressure with Sophie, with Dasah and now new memories with Briella. So many emotions colliding.
Within seconds Dr. K had lifted her from my womb, a loud cry rushing out of my sweet daughters’ lips. The curtain couldn’t be pulled down fast enough as I struggled to lift my head and see this sweet little life wonderfully crying at me as she entered the world full of life. They couldn’t bring her to me fast enough.
And then I heard a familiar voice saying she’s coming to me… it was Nancy.
Nancy who had brought Dasah to me, was bringing sweet Briella to me. Quickly, she laid her on my chest and for the first time my heart rested.
It was real.
She was alive.
She would live.
I would be wheeled out of the hospital with her in our arms.
Overwhelming emotion that held the weight of the past 5 years along with the utter joy of realizing this baby really could live. Utter joy that what I had so hoped would be true was indeed true.
So this is a taste of the fulfillment of hope.
All the longings, wonderings, anticipation and then the joyful realization that what you longed for is now reality.
And I wept with her in my arms as I Iooked at Kevin and through tears said “I’m so happy right now”.
There are no words to put to what that feels like. No words to put to what it is to know such loss and then to know such life. I wondered later if this was a taste of what it will be like when we see Jesus face to face, when He comes and does what He promises He will do…make all things new. It wasn’t a guarantee that Briella would be born alive and well, it is a guarantee that Jesus will return and life will win and death will be defeated. And I can only imagine what it will feel like to live in that reality fully. The day Briella was born… in so many ways like the day I laid eyes on Jaden for the first time was a taste of that hope fulfilled, a taste of what it will be like when you experience the deep longings of your heart fulfilled.
I wept on the table with her in my arms for the sheer joy and wonder of that moment, getting to watch her breastfeed for the first time, getting to share in the joy of this precious girl with Kevin, with the Doctors and nurses who have loved us and cared for us through much, for the joy of this moment that I truthfully thought I would never get to experience. The following hours and days were a blur as I was in and out of pain, exhausted from surgery and learning the newness of breastfeeding and taking care of this little one in the midst of my own physical pain while enjoying all her sweet cuddles and introducing her to friends and family.
There was so much joy as I saw my parents, my siblings, and then my son meet Briella for the first time. Perhaps what I was most excited for, getting to watch Jaden be a big brother… and he has been so tender and sweet with his little sister. Gently touching her head, nuzzling his head into hers when she is crying. Running to say good morning to her nearly forgetting me in the process. I love watching him love her.
Other nurses came by who were a part of our story with Dasah. When Lynn walked in and held Briella I could hardly control my tears remembering her holding Dasah, remembering in those few hours how she loved my daughter like her own and then getting to see her hold this one. Sarah and Lauren, my nurses with Dasah came by… Sarah now a lactation consultant and Lauren becoming a mid wife and there were such beautiful tears shed as I saw them. There is something about introducing your child to those who have loved and cared for those no longer with you. I am so grateful for these nurses and grateful that they got to meet Briella.
I am brutally aware that not all of us get to experience the joy of hope fulfilled this side of heaven. And truth be told, though those moments with her in my arms in the OR were pure bliss for my weary heart, the waves of grief, the triggers from past pain, and the challenges of newborn life quickly flooded the hospital room we were in and then the days and weeks that have followed. All has not been pure bliss since then (though I must be honest that I have never been more thankful for the hardness of newborn life, and the chaos of having a toddler and baby to care for… more on this in a later post). That taste of hope fulfilled was a taste and then the realities of the weariness of this life amidst all the joy came rushing in. A stark reminder that hope has not been fulfilled this side of heaven, that what we ultimately long for is still coming and we are still waiting and these tastes of hope fulfilled however full of overwhelming joy is just a prelude to the real thing, the real hope fulfilled.
Can you imagine the joy that will overwhelm us when Jesus returns, when all things are made new and when everything sad becomes untrue? I’m thankful for the glimpses, the tastes this side of heaven of these joyful moments of welcoming new life of seeing spaces of pain redeemed with life. And my heart longs all the more for that glorious day where hope fulfilled will be so more than a taste.
Photos by Amanda Kern (who photographed Sophie and Dasah’s birth and did Jaden’s newborn photography… our photographer for life 🙂 ) and my sister Laurie Schultz.