Today marks the first of a six-month long series on the Alexandra Amnesty blog. I've asked six women to share their stories of hurt and hope with my readers. You can expect these blogs to go live around the first Monday of every month for the rest of 2019. If you'd ever like to come back and read again, just look under the "Guest Bloggers" category of this website and you'll find all of their stories tagged there. The first writer is my brother's wife.
Meet Bethany. Bethany is quiet and kind. She has been a Marine wife for her entire marriage. She understands the high calling to support a husband in the military and the private suffering required to support a veteran in the aftermath of war. And she does it all in love, grace, and without complaint. But she never expected that she would have her own war that she would enter into firsthand.
I've had the high blessing of walking through Bethany's past year with her, and I shed many tears editing this blog over the past week. This is the first time she is going public with her story. Please share her story if you know someone walking through something similar. I'm so thankful for her vulnerability and courage to share in efforts to show women who have gone through the same trial two major truths:
You are not alone.
God is worthy to trust in your suffering.
Becoming parents is the best thing that has ever happened to me and my husband. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. It is the biggest blessing God has given me.
We decided to really start trying for a second baby when our firstborn daughter was about six months old. It wasn’t happening but we were patient. When she was 18 months old my husband medically retired from the Marine Corps and we moved from San Diego to Cincinnati to be closer to my sweet step-daughter. We could finally live life as a family together. We also made the decision to stop trying for another baby, we were disappointed but decided it must not be in God’s plan at the time.
But two weeks later we found out we were pregnant! I surprised my husband on his birthday, and we both cried tears of joy. I started showing symptoms right away, I was insanely nauseous all the time, incredibly stuffed up because of a very miserable sinus infection, overly exhausted from life of being a mom to a very willful two year old… but throughout the challenges I was so, so elated. We were pregnant with another beautiful girl. I felt her kick for the first time at 16 weeks. My husband got to feel her kick too, which may not sound like a big deal, but it was very special because he never got to feel our older daughter move as he was deployed throughout my pregnancy and birth. From then on she was a dancing, hiccuping machine. She was very active and I LOVED it. I was assured by her movements and never felt worried.
We decided to name her Rose Sahalie. Our Rosie girl.
By the time I was seven and a half months pregnant, we were ready in almost every way. We got the nursery ready, picked out special outfits for her two older sisters, and packed my hospital bag. We hosted Thanksgiving and even though I was exhausted from being hugely pregnant and cooking most of the day, it was an amazing day. We had fun plans for the weekend full of family traditions and laughter, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how excited I was. I imagined that the next time we would all be together would be to meet our Rosie girl a little less than two months later. So much to look forward to!
I started noticing less movement on the Sunday night following Thanksgiving. I thought that maybe she might be running out of room due to my unicornate uterus and she was still shifting quite a bit so I tried my best not to worry. I prayed that everything was okay and not-so-easily fell asleep. The next day I noticed her shifting in my belly from one position to another and felt a sliver of ease. I had an appointment the next morning, Tuesday, and couldn’t be more excited to have my worries put to rest. For once in this pregnancy I desperately needed reassurance. I was feeling really anxious and couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Monday night I laid in bed telling myself that everything is okay, God wouldn’t put this perfect girl in my womb just to have her be taken away... I prayed again and again. She wasn’t hiccuping like she always did, which absolutely terrified me. I held my baby belly tightly and cried myself to sleep.
The morning of Tuesday, November 27, I went in for my appointment. I remember that my older daughter was so excited to get to hear Rosie’s heartbeat. But when the tech searched for it, we didn’t hear it. Nothing. We heard nothing. It was like she had just disappeared. I knew she was gone but wasn’t ready to accept it. The doctor took us to get an ultrasound. I laid on the table with my belly covered in gel, looking at my baby girl’s perfect little body with no heart beat. The ultrasound tech was silent, and the doctor said,
“Ok, so your baby has passed away. We don’t know why this happened. I am so sorry.”
I felt numb, like part of me died with her. Tears pooled into my ears as I silently cried. Rosie girl took an early flight home to Heaven. A parent’s worst nightmare. Mine and my husband’s worst fear had come true.
I had the option to have a c-section or to be given medication to put me into labor. I had originally planned on trying for a Vbac (vaginal birth after cesarian), but I decided to do the c-section. I couldn’t put my body through that without Rosie’s victory cry at the end. I couldn’t go through that without being able to hold my beautiful, breathing baby girl.
As we prepared that day for the c-section, my sweet husband and I discussed whether we’d have a funeral and if we should bury her or cremate her. I HATED that those were my options, I loathed that I wasn’t breathing through intense contractions on our way to meet our sweet baby. I couldn’t stand the thought of her being buried alone, especially if we ever moved. I couldn’t stand the thought of not having my girl with us. But I also couldn’t handle the thought of her being cremated either. THIS IS NOT OK. This is not a conversation any parent should ever have.
During the c-section, as Rosie was lifted out of me, the doctor said, “Oh Bethany, she’s so beautiful!” I then prayed, shouting in my head, “Please God, wake me up from this nightmare. Please save my baby! Make her breathe!”
She never took a breath. They found the umbilical cord in a knot and wrapped tightly around her neck. My sweet angel was so active that she got herself tangled in the cord, leading to her early death.
My heart still feels like it’s going to jump out of my chest, it physically aches so much. I also feel numb. I never imagined I would hold my child’s warm lifeless body. We got to keep her with us in the room as long as we wanted. I held her just like I did my first born, I kissed her tiny face just like I did my first born. I couldn’t not hold her if she wasn’t being held by my husband, one of her grandparents, aunt or uncle. I just wanted her to cry. We kept her with us for three days until she started to really change. I couldn’t watch my beautiful baby deteriorate in front of me. It was breaking my heart. Every time I held her I whispered to her,
“I love you baby. Please breathe. Mommy loves you. Please… just breathe.”
"Do not judge the bereaved mother, she comes in many forms. She is breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she is, but she is not, all at once. She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity."
My milk came in. I had a postpartum belly. I have an ugly scar. Looking in the mirror felt like looking at ghost. There should be a beautiful baby girl in my arms, but there wasn’t. I still can’t believe this is happening. It still feels like I’m in a horrific nightmare that I can’t wake up from. But it’s not a nightmare, it is my reality. I am not the same woman I was before. I am forever changed.
I have gone through a lot of emotions in the aftermath of this tragedy. I have been angry, confused, sad, and shattered to pieces. As of today it has been almost 7 months and I am just now starting to feel God’s presence in my grief. I knew He was with me but I couldn’t feel Him, I felt alone.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God… your Savior.”
Although I don’t always feel God’s presence, He is always with me, especially during suffering. I remember thinking that if I ever lost a child there is no way I could live. I realized very recently the people He strategically placed in my life a couple months before Rosie’s death and immediately after. He was preparing the support my husband and I would need to endure such deep sorrow. But I am alive today because Christ isn’t just with me, He is in me. In Him is where my strength lies. God is here with me in my grief.
I truly believe God broke my heart for what breaks His. He chose me to carry our beautiful girl and endure the suffering of losing her for a reason. I don’t know when I will know all the reasons or if I ever will but I have the hope that I will be able to move forward with my life as a wife and mom, and live a life that will honor Rose and make her proud to call me “momma.”
And as impossible as it may seem, especially to me... God loves Rosie more than myself or my husband ever could. She grew in my belly for almost 32 weeks and was born into Heaven. I long for the day when I get to see my beautiful Rosie girl face-to-face. She is perfect now. I am so grateful that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His love for us, I will see her again… and there will be no more pain, no more sorrow. We will have a glorious reunion with each other and our Good Father.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
My heart is broken and physically hurts even now as I write this. Tribulations are going to happen. But the pain and suffering I am feeling now and will feel until the end of my earthly existence is nothing compared to the joy that will fill my heart when I am in the presence of my Savior and am holding my sweet baby girl again. The pain in this life is nothing compared to the happiness and elation we will feel in Heaven for eternity.
“I [Jesus] have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
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