Saturday, May 30, 2009

Eliana's Story

Eliana’s story starts even before her life began. Psalm 139 reads “For you formed my inward parts, you wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks for You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Before He even made her, God knew her and loved her. He already had a purpose and plan for her, knowing when her life would begin, and when her earthly life would end and she would go to be with Him. We also thought of her long before she came to be. For at least a year I prayed for God’s perfect timing, and His perfect will for the birth of our next child, and I also prayed for a baby girl. Her name Eliana Grace was chosen in 2004 during our first pregnancy. God gave us two precious boys first, but even then my little girl was on my heart.

In early December 2008, we found out we were expecting, and couldn’t have been happier. We began busily making plans for her, renovating our house and putting it on the market and purchasing a van. On March 11 we had our ultrasound appointment at 17 weeks. It was so fun to see our baby wriggling around on the screen, and hear her heartbeat like a galloping horse. Mark and our two boys were in there with me. We all held our breath waiting for the big news, was our baby a boy or a girl? The technician told my oldest son “it’s a sister!” I was so overcome I had to ask her again, and she said she was 99.9% sure our precious baby was a girl. Those were the first tears of many I would shed for her. The room was filled with excitement, and even our two-year-old started saying “Girl, mommy! Girl, Mommy!”

I had been thrilled to have our two boys, but this time in particular, my heart’s deep desire was to have a little girl. I felt blessed beyond words. I said to my husband, “This is as good as it gets!” Both of us felt like we wouldn’t fully believe it until we held her in our arms. Now I could start making plans for her bedroom, and even though we had hand-me-downs coming from a niece and a friend, I had so much fun picking out lots of cute things for her at garage sales. The next 8+ weeks were filled with sharing the exciting news and loving our daughter. At 19 weeks I began feeling her move, and a few weeks later my husband was able to feel it too. We started talking to her and thinking even more about her. Each night my oldest son would hug and kiss me good-night, and then hug and kiss my tummy, saying good-night to his baby sister. He would always say one word referring to something he loves, and wanted her to love too, usually it was “dinosaurs.”

We didn’t know those were the only precious weeks we had to let her know how much we love her. Late Thursday night, May 7, I remarked to my husband that I hadn’t felt her move like she usually would while we watched TV. We both agreed it was probably fine and went to bed. Throughout the night I woke several times thinking she might kick for reassurance, but I still didn’t worry, and assumed she was probably just moving while I was sleeping. The next morning was my routine prenatal check-up. I went in feeling normal, dreading drinking the ultra-sweet drink for my glucose screen, and looking forward to hearing her heart racing away.

I quickly forced down the drink, and sat in the waiting room feeling sicker than I expected. When I was called back for my appointment I told the nurse practicioner right away that I hadn’t felt her move as much in the last day. She said not to worry, that at this early stage (25+ weeks) we wouldn’t do the non-stress test yet, and they would have me start doing fetal kick counts. I feebly replied “I thought the sugary drink would wake her up for sure!” With a reassuring smile she began to listen with the Doppler. I didn’t really start to get nervous until she kept listening and listening. Even then she smiled and said “I think your placenta might be in front, so I’m having a hard time hearing it through the placenta. We’ll just go have an ultrasound so they can check it out.”

I called Mark at work to let him know what was happening, and he had reassuring words. I was trying to be strong and not let myself think the worst, but my insides were in knots. I sat in the waiting room staring at the salt water fish tank, trying to quell the scenarios coming into my brain, and swallow the lump in my throat.

Luckily the wait wasn’t long. Once I lay down on the table, the technician took some measurements first. As my heart pounded, I was holding my breath again, this time waiting not to hear that my baby was a girl, but to hear if my baby girl was alive. After a minute that seemed like an eternity, she said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but I can’t find a heart-beat.” At that point the floor dropped from under me and the world stopped spinning. I just said “No!” and covered my face with my hands, crying.

After that things unfolded in a relative blur. I phoned my husband at work with the bad news, and waited in agony for him to arrive. We listened to what the Doctor had to say and made the decision to go home and pack some things and talk to our boys, and then head to the hospital to begin the long labor induction process. We got to the hospital around 3 PM on Friday, and I gave birth to Eliana at 11:53 PM Saturday, May 9.

During the many hours waiting to give birth, God was preparing our hearts for what was to come. I had wanted it to be over with as quickly as possible, He knew better. I know looking back that the emotional state I was in early on would have made it very difficult to have a meaningful experience with Eliana after she was born. We had many hours to think, talk, pray, and just let it all sink in before seeing her face. We had special visits from family, pastors, and friends that helped to comfort us and come to terms with the difficult reality. Through it all, even while in shock and disbelief, I was filled with this overwhelming sense of peace, supernatural peace, the kind that is beyond understanding. Just hours after learning of her death, I wrote Eliana a letter, that said “I haven’t gotten to hold you, or see your face yet, but I know you are already surrounded by so much love, joy, laughter, and light, beyond our imagination…” It was that assurance that carried me through the long hours.

It was like a miracle, when it finally came time to deliver, I was actually looking forward to holding our baby girl, and seeing her face. When she came, it was a solemn event, but beautiful and sweet as well. We held her, and sang Amazing Grace and It Is Well. We looked at her tiny, long fingers, her cute little feet, all her perfectly formed features. The nurse gushed over all her dark hair, and took pictures of her. We just had this bittersweet time of loving her and loving God, while He ministered to our hearts. It was so sad to hold this baby girl that we had prayed for and waited so long for, lifeless and silent; yet still so precious to love this child, created by God, given to us for such a short time, and already in the presence of her Creator.

Eliana Grace is greatly missed, and dearly loved. She was wanted, loved, and prayed for before her life even began, and she will continue to be loved always. Her story doesn’t end here, her life is not just a blip in time, easily forgotten and full of sadness. She is an eternal being, fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of God and alive forever in His presence. She is a gift, bringing us so much love and joy during the 6 months I carried her, and continuing to bring love into our lives as we remember her, and think of her in heaven. We look forward to the day when we will see her again, and worship God together with her for all eternity.