By now, most of you know that the last time I wrote about Emma was the night before she was born. How wrong I was when I said it looked like I wasn't going into labor anytime soon! "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) On Tuesday, June 29, 2010, I woke up at 5:00am. I'm not sure which woke me up, but Todd's alarm went off at 5:00 to wake him up for work, and I was also having contractions. I could tell right away that these contractions were more intense than anything I had felt yet. I wasn't too concerned until I got up to use the restroom and saw all the blood. Todd called my nurse right away, who happened to be working that night by God's grace! She is a fellow believer, and we were so thankful that she was working the night shift (which was the first time in 18 years she had ever worked four 12-hour shifts on consecutive days - and now we know why she was called in to work at the last minute)! She checked my cervix and said I was fully dilated.
I was still trying to absorb the news as they wheeled me to a labor & delivery room. Just the day before I had been thinking that it was the first day in the hospital that I had really felt bored, and I was wondering what it would be like to spend the next 2-3 months on bedrest in a hospital. I was trying to comprehend how our lives would change if we brought our special-needs daughter home from the hospital. Suddenly those possibilities were shattered, because we knew that if our baby came at 26 weeks with her current heart problems then she had almost no chance of survival (short of a miracle).
Once in the labor & delivery room, the doctor had me start pushing. After the second set of pushes, my water broke and then my contractions slowed down considerably. In fact, they slowed so much that my doctor decided not to make me push any more until they had given me Pitocin to speed things back up. They took us to a new room that was much bigger, which was very nice since some of our friends and family had started arriving at the hospital. We actually had a few hours then to wait. I'm so thankful for that time that we were able to spend together as the events of that morning sunk in, and I think Todd and I were able to mentally prepare a little more for what we assumed would happen next. The other reason I will always treasure that time is that we were able to listen to Emma's heartbeat for the last time. They had her on a heartbeat monitor the entire time I was in labor, and it was a wonderful reminder that she was there, alive inside of me, even though we couldn't see her yet.
Sometime close to 10:00am, my nurse came in the room to adjust Emma's heartbeat monitor because it wasn't picking her up. That didn't worry us too much, because they had monitored her every day I was in the hospital and she was always moving away from the monitors! I finally realized something was wrong when the nurse was moving the monitor all over my belly and still not finding a heartbeat. We all started to realize that Emma might already be gone. Then, for just a moment, the nurse found Emma's heartbeat again, and then it was gone. She went to get the doctor to do an ultrasound to look for her heartbeat. Everything happened quickly then. I remember holding Todd's hand the whole time and squeezing it with all my might. The doctor came in to put me on the ultrasound, and I was looking at the screen and couldn't see Emma. He said that she had already dropped down out of the uterus and that he couldn't see a heartbeat. That's when the tears really came, and I finally realized that our baby girl was already in the presence of the Lord, and that it happened sometime while I was sitting there in L&D room 1, holding Todd's hand.
Emma was delivered shortly after that. Her umbilical cord came first, and my doctor said that most likely it was her cord being pinched that caused her to pass away. I remember not being able to see Emma right away and being impatient to hold her. They finally put her in my arms, and it was overwhelming how tiny she was and how perfectly she was formed at the same time. I don't think I cried. I've never held a lifeless body in my arms before but it was really an incredible feeling to know that I was holding my daughter who had been living inside me for 26 weeks but that Emma's soul was actually with Jesus at that very moment. I've heard other people describe their stillborn babies as "born to heaven," and I like that. Emma's body was born at 10:27am on June 29, but sometime shortly before that, she was actually "born" in heaven, and it's the only home she'll ever know.
Emma's birthday was such a special day. We were able to see and cry with many dear friends. Our amazing friend Brittany took lots of pictures for us so that we would have memories of our time with Emma. We also were blessed to have a photographer come from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, an organization of volunteer photographers who will come to the hospital and take beautiful black & white photos of babies like Emma, so we can remember how she looked. Even the hospital nurses took some pictures for us, and gave us a dress for Emma to wear because the preemie outfits we had were too big for her.
We left the hospital the next day around 1:30pm. Leaving Emma behind was one of the hardest things we've ever had to do, even though we knew it was only her physical body. The next few days were a blur of planning for Emma's memorial service. I don't know what we would ever have done without Heather Renee and my mom making so many of the arrangements for us, as well as all the help from many other wonderful people.
Now that some time has passed, some of our friends have said they aren't sure whether we want to talk about Emma or if it's easier to avoid the topic altogether. I know I can speak for both Todd and me and say that we love to talk about her. She was with us for such a short time, but she was still our daughter and we don't want to pretend she didn't exist. We loved her so much, and we always will, and we look forward to the day we will be able to see her again in Heaven. We are confident of this for two reasons: (1) We believe that God has mercy on the souls of babies who die and they are part of His elect; and (2) We believe that Jesus is God's Son and that He lived a perfect life on this earth, was crucified and died, and was raised from the dead. We believe that God's Word tells us that those who place their faith and trust in Jesus to forgive their sins will receive God's forgiveness because of Jesus' work and His alone. We are not trusting in our own lives or deeds for salvation, because we know nothing we could ever do would satisfy a holy God. "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:22-24). Because Todd and I believe we have been justified before God because of Jesus, we believe that we will spend eternity with Him in Heaven - "having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7).
I wanted to say these things to explain WHY we can say that we will see Emma again one day. We aren't saying that just because it's the thing to say when you lose a loved one; we are confident of it because of God's promises. As Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4:13-14, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep [die], or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep [died] in him." Christians have a certain hope of a bodily resurrection when Jesus returns. "For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'
'Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?'" (I Corinthians 15: 52-55)
This is our hope. We are so sad that we have lost our little girl. We don't understand all the reasons, but we know that it was part of God's plan for Emma's own good (Romans 8:28). And we do truly have peace in the midst of this, because God never changes, and He always keeps his promises. We also know that God loves Emma even more than we do, more than we can imagine.
"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young." (Isaiah 40:11)