This is probably the most difficult thing for me to write on…not because it is an emotionally difficult subject, but because it is a story of God’s beauty and overwhelming grace….a story of His Glory, not mine. Therefore, I want you to see Him all over it. My desire is for you to get a glimpse of how He can take such heartache and turn it into something so Divinely Delicate human words can hardly recreate it.
To begin, let me share with you where I was at in my life. Going into my marriage I became a new Christian (yes, I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school, but you can’t call yourself a follower of Christ until your heart’s total desire is to actually follow Christ). I had a new career, a 10 month old baby, and had been married a little over a year and half when I discovered we were expecting our second child. It is difficult now to admit but I was not overcome with joy about this pregnancy.
Until…..it was being threatened that it might be taken away from me. An early sonogram revealed a small patch of skin with fluid underneath it behind the babies neck. At 13 weeks pregnant, I quickly changed my mind; my thoughts turned and I wanted to take back any negative or ungrateful thought. I will totally take this baby with joy.
We were scheduled to see the maternal fetal specialist after the weekend…and looking back I was grateful for that weekend. (Sometimes we get anxious to know the reality, especially when it comes to life-altering situations, but now I understand how God gives us that time to study His word and hear from Him, and to build our faith when it will be tested the most.)
On Tuesday, my husband and I met with the maternal fetal specialist while they performed another sonogram and then directed us to the ‘conference room.’ (I think they need to start taking people outside or a room that is way more lively than any doctor’s conference room I have been in.) Anyways, we were totally blessed with a Christian doctor, Dr. Gray. He took a piece of paper out and wrote down the name of our baby’s anomaly and told us we could look it up on the internet if we wanted (we never did). He gave us the statistics on survival rate and such; I think it was a 50/50 chance of the problem going away and it was a good sign I hadn’t miscarried. I remember him saying the further along I carried the baby, the better the chances were. And thankfully he also said he believed in a higher power than himself performing miracles. So I took the 2 positive things he said and clung to those.
The next 15 weeks went along with us on our knees completely believing in God’s healing power. Everywhere I went I carried a copy of all of the healing scriptures I could find. We chose to only tell a handful of family and friends what we were faced with, and they stood with us in prayer and faithfully believing God was going to heal our baby. We confessed healing, we believed healing. Anytime I had a doctor’s visit, I sat in the waiting room with my bible open. I even told my regular OB that I didn’t want any sonograms unless it was totally necessary. Doubt was something we couldn’t let creep in.
And then came the 29th week…
Physically, things weren’t looking good. I was swelling pretty badly, which isn’t something normal for me in pregnancy. At my doctor visit, she informed me that I was measuring about 10 weeks ahead of schedule and it was time for a sonogram. She didn’t want me to go into labor due to all the extra fluid. If that was the only problem, they could easily remove some fluid. I agreed on a sonogram and made an appointment for a few hours later.
As I sat in the Christian book store waiting for that sonogram appointment, I desperately struggled not to be anxious…to remember Christ’s promise of ‘peace that surpasses all understanding.’ It was hard to focus on His promises when I was about to see the physical reality…it could be really good, or it could be really bad. At that moment I felt so immature in my faith. I began to understand the war going on in my mind and I didn’t feel like I was winning it.
The Hard Truth…
So there I was with reality… splattered out on that ultrasound screen, nowhere to hide from it. The obvious was too visible. I didn’t really need the technician to inform me, I couldn’t handle my ears to know what my eyes could see. Fluid…in her lungs and abdomen…if it was anywhere else I don’t remember…I had seen all I needed to. It was a girl. My OB offered to send me back to the maternal fetal specialist, but I knew there was nothing he could do so I declined. The doctors had gone as far as they could, it was all up to God.
Crying Out in Desperation…
I sat in the driveway of my parent’s home not wanting to leave the confines of my car; not wanting to mutter the news out loud making it all even more real. I sobbed. I begged and pleaded with God to take this away from me, to pick someone else, I wasn’t strong enough to handle it. I didn’t want to be her…the mother of this child whose earthly life required every ounce of my faith. I tried to reason with Him, as if I knew better, that I was the wrong girl. I could not carry on. Why? Why me? My weakness was overwhelming; the mustard seed of faith weighed like that of a mountain.
And that’s when I heard something playing on the radio. It was one of my favorite songs from Third Day, yet I had never noticed the words in such detail as I did in that moment. It was like my heart was crying out to God:
Show me Your Glory
Send down your presence, I wanna see Your face
Show me Your Glory
Majesty shines about You, I can’t go on without You, Lord.”
My sobbing turned to just straight tears. He knew my heart. The God of the Universe heard the cries of His daughter. And He was there. All throughout this pregnancy I had this feeling that God would reveal a name for me…and His timing was right-on. I knew her name had to be Glory. His Presence was with me in that moment…He heard my cries and felt my pain…I knew I could go on.
Saying it Out Loud…
Walking inside the house, my dad was the first person I encountered. I am sure he could tell it wasn’t good from my tear-stained face, but he too didn’t understand. He questioned why the doctors couldn’t do anything else, while I was silently questioning why wasn’t God doing anything else. But I knew, I knew He cared for me and my daughter, He wasn’t leaving me. He was calling me for something bigger than my mind could grasp in that moment.
That evening turned out to be pretty special. My little sister was making her way from Colorado to Mexico with a group of YWAM kids And they just happened to be stopping off at my parents’ house for pizza. It was so nice to see her and talk with her, not knowing when we would be together again. I shared with both my sisters the recent findings from the sonogram, how I felt Glory should be the baby’s name, and how I would continue on believing God was still going to heal this baby. I think I also finally told my brothers what was going on…like I said, we only told a handful of people before.
One week later (December 22nd, 2005)…
The recliner and I had become pretty good buddies, but this particular night I could not get comfortable no matter what I did or where I slept. My back was aching terribly, however the thought of labor never crossed my mind, I was only 30 weeks. I waited until a semi-decent hour and woke my husband to tell him we either needed to go to the hospital or pray. I didn’t like the idea of the hospital because I knew they weren’t going to let me leave. So we prayed and the pain subsided enough for me to function. I called my OB and scheduled an appointment for that morning and Josh went off to work (again, I still wasn’t thinking labor).
In my denial I was hoping my doctor would give me some magic pill to get rid of the pain or even a simple reason I was feeling this way, anything but a trip to the hospital and an impending labor. That’s definitely not what I got. She informed me I had some tough decisions to make…did I want a C-Section since the baby probably wouldn’t tolerate delivery or go ahead with a vaginal delivery…did we want aggressive neonatal care or just comfort care…and I know there was one more but I cannot recall. My mind was beginning to blur. Her questions were too much to take in, too much reality and too little time. It seemed like a good idea to beg her to stop my labor. I needed more time. However, she informed me that would only give me 48 hours and would mean I would probably deliver on Christmas day. It wasn’t the simple solution I was looking for. She said she would see me in a couple of hours at the hospital. I didn’t believe her.
It was Time…
After leaving the OB office I figured I could run a few errands, only to turn around and head home. The pain was becoming undeniable. I called Josh. At that point my emotions were more fear than anything: fear of not believing, fear that if my faith would falter I would lose my baby, fear of the outcome. It was time to take the trip to the hospital…the point of no return…all the prayers would come down to this moment (or so I thought).
And there we were.
I remember changing into the hospital gown and finally admitting out loud to my husband that I didn’t think I had the faith for this, that I was having trouble believing. My fingers grasped my ‘mustard seed’ necklace while my thoughts wandered, If only I could believe that much, everything would turn out the way we wanted.
The resident and a few nurses came in with the dreaded ultrasound machine. I turned away and kept quiet, I figured they were smart enough to make their own discoveries into our current situation. And besides, I was still holding out for a miracle, not wanting my words to spoil anything.
We were again blessed with a Christian doctor, the very kind resident that was attending us. She asked if we wanted a neonatologist to come in and speak with us. We declined. Sometimes too much information, too much reality, too much negativity, is just too much. I needed to be surrounded by positive thoughts, I could come up with plenty of negative ones on my own.
The Operating Room…
As the baby’s heart rate slowly declined, we opted for the C-Section. And the next thing I remember was the white ceiling with the blinding lights in the operating room. That ceiling was like a divider between Heaven and me, my prayers and pleading lacked enough power to penetrate through. And the lights…bright, to say the very least. As if some artificial lights could expose the pain and darkness beginning to swell up inside me. In the helplessness of that situation, all I could do was stare straight up, but I couldn’t see what I was so desperately wanting to see. What was He trying to show me, teach me, build in me? Where was it? Where was His Glory in all this? Because I couldn’t feel it, and I definitely couldn’t see it.
My mind was racing for what I thought would be a good Glory story. My prayers turned into uncontrollable begging, we were in the final moments, yet still grasping to hold on to something good, anything. There was no excessive urgency among the doctors. Everyone worked quietly, or maybe my thoughts were so loud it was all I could hear. Yet, there was a sense of it all slipping away, my Glory wasn’t going to stay with me and I was about to face the blinding reality.
The Final Moments…
I still remember the few tears from the anesthesiologist as he did all he could to make sure I was comfortable. And the look of sympathy (the first of many) on the neonatologist when he told me he was sorry. He then asked us if we wanted to hold her…such a simple question, and you would think, as loving parents of course we would want to hold our baby. But unfortunately it is not usually that simple. To me, this was a big decision. Do I want my only memory of my daughter to be death? What did she look like? Would I regret it…either way? Thankfully my OB could see my inner questioning and kindly said, “Don’t worry Amanda, she looks beautiful.” And with that, we made the decision to hold her.
Back in our room, it was just Josh and I and this little being God had created just for us, to change our lives in such a purposeful way, we could not have begun to fathom His plan in that moment. I can’t remember how long we were in there alone, maybe thirty minutes, maybe two hours. We took some pictures…although it felt very strange at the time…I knew we would want the physical memories later. We were in an undeniable fog, grasping for any sign of life we could hold on to.
There is one thing, in all that time I had alone with my daughter, that I never did. I never unwrapped her from her hospital blanket. Why…I really don’t know the answer. Although I wish I had. Maybe I didn’t want to hold her tiny hand and look at her cute little toes, maybe it would have been too sad to let her go. As if unraveling her blanket to see her total baby-ness would have unraveled my mom heart too much. If she were to just stay looking like a little doll in that blanket, I could pretend it all wasn’t real, in some sense.
After a few family members came in to see her and hold her, we gave her to the nurse. They told us we could see our baby girl again at any time we wanted during our stay in the hospital, but I knew it wasn’t that simple. I knew that had to be it, I didn’t want to drag on the sorrow. I wanted out of it, quickly.
Like the song says,
I caught a glimpse of Your Splendor In the corner of my eye The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen It was like a flash of lightning Reflected off the sky And I know, I will never be the same.
My Mom Heart…
Seeing my 16 month old son at the hospital helped ease the ache in my heart. It gave me an outlet for the motherly love I so needed to give out. Although he had no idea what was going on at the time, his innocence brought a sense of calmness to the situation. A picture of the child-like faith we are to have during all life’s happenings, Clayton trusted everything was going to be alright.
In the midst of all the pain, God planted tiny miracles just so we could look back and see His hand at work. During all this my little sister had been in Mexico with no way for us to reach her and tell her the news. The next morning after Glory’s birth, I got a call on my cellphone from a strange number. I figured it was Chelsea and that she had called my mom first and gotten the news. Answering it, I expected she already knew. However, she knew nothing more than God had prompted her to call me directly and right then. Although it was very sad to tell her the news of Glory’s birth and death over the phone, it was a huge blessing that she knew then instead of a month later when she returned home.
Time to Go…
Leaving the hospital Christmas eve felt dreary. I couldn’t tell you what the actual weather was that day, but my heart felt cloudy and cold. People everywhere were going about their normal business, yet my sadness was so heavy I could not fathom that they could not all feel it too. It just seemed surreal that anyone could be feeling normal when I felt so not. They were preparing for Christmas…I was preparing for a funeral.
And that’s exactly what we did. Sadly, after leaving the hospital and picking up our son, Josh and I headed to the funeral home to make the final preparations for our daughter’s funeral. Death knows no mercy. It was Christmas eve and instead of picking up presents, we were picking out coffins, music, obituary wording and service guides. Those were the types of memories that we would have with our daughter…it had to be as meaningful as we could make it.
Christmas day we kind of just hid…from the phone calls, from visitors, from anything that represented ‘mourning.’ We spent the day at my parent’s house with my immediate family. We did the Christmas routine as usual, although everyone knew there was nothing usual about Christmas that year. No one talked about it. Random tears would fall without any mention of Glory. It’s strange, but it was what I needed. God had something to tell me, I knew it. And the more I listened to what the world had to say, the less I could hear Him. Besides, I was doing a good job being sad, I didn’t need anyone’s help. All I needed was my Savior to rescue me from this pit and show me the good in what we were going through.
Christmas day was also the day that Glory’s obituary appeared in the newspaper. How ironic, a baby’s obituary…with the name Glory… on Christmas. But to me, it was beautifully meaningful…like a secret between God and I. He knew I loved Christmas time and instead of it being an awful memory for us, it was to become the best gift of all, His Glory revealed to us over and over again.
Finding the ‘Good’
That evening I made a decision that I was done being sad, done crying over it. I didn’t want the mention of my daughter to bring tears of sadness. I wanted to be able to share her story by honoring God, not by making it about what I had lost, but what we had gained. Absorbing myself in His word, I began to really search out what it was My Redeemer wanted me to hear. Anything that spoke to me I clung to like a life-raft, as if I couldn’t go on without it’s source of surety.
The Physical Necessities…
The day after Christmas (the next biggest shopping day of the year) we were back out among the crowds, a little less raw this time, getting clothes for the funeral. We were lost in our own agenda, while scores of people rushed around. Was it still sad? Yes, but as I have learned from experience, you just have to take care of the physical demands of closure before you can really go through the emotional. The details of the funeral had to be worked out and taken care of before we could begin any kind of healing process.
One major detail of the funeral…how could we let everyone know exactly the way we were feeling? Of course our deep sadness played a major role, but just as equivalent was the peace and comfort we were getting from our Heavenly Father. There was definitely no anger or questioning towards God, we were confident of His greater plan in all this. We were feeling blessed to be called into our roles as Glory’s parents, as the ones called to show-off His Glory and not take our own through the sympathy of others.
Around midnight the night before the funeral, I began to type out something I would read at her funeral. I knew I had to say something and I didn’t want to just ramble. As I laid there in bed, slowly typing and dozing off, somehow the words began filling the page. I awoke the next morning to find a page filled with divine wisdom and care, ready to be printed off and read. Thanking God for writing it for me, I took it and left.
The funeral was December 27th. I remember it being a nice sunny day. Warmer than usual for December. I was just glad to be able to wear sunglasses, if only I could pretend to be hiding. The outpouring of people who attended the funeral service was incredible. One of the struggles with having a funeral service for an infant is the thought of nobody coming because nobody, including yourself, really knew this baby. But that wasn’t the case, and rarely ever is. Our friends and family overwhelmed us with support and love.
During the service, my older sister got up and spoke and said some things we needed to hear, especially Josh. It was great to hear the wisdom God had given her and the boldness to which she spoke. Our pastor, Todd Carter, used the story of David from 2 Samuel 12:15-23, when he was grieving over his sick son, only to be done with his grief when his young son passed away. The people around David didn’t understand why he wouldn’t continue to grieve over his bereaved son. David replied, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
So true, why should I be sad and mourning when it won’t bring her back? Yet, if I look, really search to find God’s goodness, His Glory in all this, only Divine treasures will I uncover. Speaking of little miracles…back in Mexico, the Lord was giving Chelsea the same wisdom of 2 Samuel 12 as He was Pastor Carter.
The rest of the service went on as they do…sad, yet relieving. The closure is necessary and healing. It takes great reliance and concentration on God’s word and His promises not to fall into the trap of despair. We just looked at it as not getting something we really wanted…and we really wanted her to live. But I know His ways are above our ways, I would follow Him down any rocky path rather than go alone on a seemingly smooth one.
God’s Glory was truly beautiful. She had that peace that surpasses all understanding about her. It was what we had been praying for the whole time…perfect healing. Glory would never know fear, doubt, disappointment, anger, hurt, pride, guilt, heartache, pain, etc. All those yucky things we struggle with in our earthly lives…she was spared.
To be honest, all along I think our prayers were for us. For our healing. He knew. All those scriptures uttered and knee dropping moments. Truly, we were praying for ourselves…that we would still choose HIM…that we would see the good…that we would heal and be even more bonded to our Savior.
You Gave Me One, I Will Bless You With Two..
As if His story wasn’t cool enough. After waiting 10 months, in October 2006 I was pregnant. I didn’t know at the time of Glory’s birth, but after a c-section I needed to wait to carry another child. Time I wasn’t thankful for then, but could completely see the need for later. Physical healing was definitely necessary, but emotional healing proved to be even more important.
Because of Glory’s anomaly I was sent back to the specialist office with this pregnancy. A trip I was less than thrilled about. In fact, I was really struggling with finding any good reason to show up for that appointment. I knew Glory’s purpose was her own. It was not something I would ever experience again (as if I call the shots).
Walking through the parking lot, stubbornly and by myself, talking to God once again about how I didn’t need to be doing this. In fact I had told Josh not to come. I knew no one needed to come with me because there would be nothing wrong and this was a waste of my time. To make matters worse I was feeling really sick with this pregnancy and it wasn’t easy to go anywhere without feeling like was I was going to get sick. I was annoyed to say the least. But God assured me there was something He had to show me.
As the sonographer pulled up the image on the screen, she asked me if this was my first ultrasound of this pregnancy. I told her it was and I looked over at the screen. She didn’t even need to vocalize what I saw…
2 little babies
And that is what He wanted to show me! Absolutely, undeniably God’s handiwork. It was surreal.
I called Josh immediately (feeling a little bad he wasn’t there because of my stubbornness). Next, I called my parents. A moment I will never forget. My dad answered, asked me some questions and I got to tell him the news. I still can hear him yelling, “Jelene, she is having twins!” We cried…this time tears of joy!
One girl…One boy. 07/06/07
The Story Continues…
In May of 2013, I was blindsided by the dreaded ‘C’ word. Yes, kanser. The major setback being I was 22 weeks pregnant with my 6th child at that time. Once again, we strapped on our God-size faith and treaded through the waters of the unknown. It would all turn out okay. But through that God blessed me with a physical mark of His own. I like to think of it as a stamp of sorts.
When my oncologist informed me they would be taking this child by C-Section I was a little confused. I knew that God told me Glory’s C-Section scar was ‘her scar’ on my life. It would never be reopened. A week before delivery, I discovered they had no intention of reopening ‘Glory’s scar,’ they were going to make a vertical cut starting at my belly button down. And now, whenever I look down, I get to see an upside down cross of scars across my abdomen. Which I think is just pretty darn cool!
Meet Gloriana Sue Holmgren…
Just when I think God is done writing Glory’s story, He just keeps showing Himself. A huge part of being Glory’s mom means I am able to minister to other moms who have lost babies. And typically that means going to the hospital to meet them ‘in THAT moment.’ It is always such a delicate balance of heartache and hope.
One particular family that my heart is incredibly bonded to are the Holmgren and Munson family. (Please read the ‘almost’ full story in the May 2015 post). God used me to bless them and in return He used them to eternally bless me.
Getting a call from our director at AgapeCare Cradle, she asked if I could head up to the hospital to meet with a family. And I could, after some kid juggling, go later. And a huge bonus…she informed me that Meg and Bryan Holmgren are in the hospital delivering their second child (which God allowed me to be a part of their first daughter’s passing). No doubt about it, I was making this trip to see them!
Walking down the hospital hall with Max Munson (Meg’s awesome dad), he turned around and asked me if I knew the baby’s name. I said no (of course). Why would I? I remember his smile…as if he got to be the bearer of awesomeness.
“They named her Glory.”
And that was it. My heart was beyond moved. Once again, the God of the Universe knew…He knew the heart of His daughter. He knew what it would take for me to see His direct footprints on this journey. He never ceases to amaze me!!!
The End…(or so I think)
I am pretty sure I could go on in my life with this being the end of her “story.” In fact, I would have been perfectly blessed with the end being in 2005. I saw plenty of His work in my life even then. But God just keeps showing His power and might and undeniable miracles. “My cup runneth over.”
I know it continues on with every family I meet and every time I am blessed to share God’s story of Glory. I get to be the bearer of Hope, and the discoverer of Light in extremely desperate grief-stricken situations.
One of my favorite things is her tombstone…
Thank you for taking the time to read God’s story. Please consider visiting http://www.agapecarecradle.org to make a donation to meet the physical needs of families dealing with the loss of a child.