Monday, April 27th, 2020 at 2:30am I was awaken by profusely sweating (because of postpartum hormones) and a need to pump. Amara had also woken up and was crying. While Gabe tended to Amara and I pumped, I got a phone call from UVA hospital, a rush of anxiety came over me as I answered. It was the NICU and the doctor there told me that Selah was not doing well. She told me Selah’s blood pressure had dropped really low and she was on 100% support already so there was not much they could do. The doctor said she did not think Selah would make it out the NICU and she might only have a couple days left. My worst fear was approaching. This was out of the blue because Selah had been doing “better” the past couple of days. We waited until about 6am for Gabe’s parents to pick up Amara so we could go to the hospital.
Fortunately, since Selah was in critical condition Gabe and I were both allowed to go into the NICU together. We went it to see our little girl and she looked the worst we had ever seen. She was so swollen, she looked like a different baby. Her conditions didn’t get any better. She still had low blood pressure, low on her oxygen intake and a low heart rate and she was on 100% support. Things were not looking good. Our care team had set up a meeting for us all to talk about the next steps for Selah’s care. I could not talk with out bawling my eyes out so Gabe did most of the talking. We had decided we wanted to fight for our baby girl’s life if it were feasible. The doctors were encouraging us to think about putting her just on comfort care because they seemed not to believe she was going to get better.
Selah had stopped making urine because of the medicines she was on for her blood pressure. Since she wasn’t making urine she was retaining all of her fluids. The doctors could not find out what was causing it but her fluids were not staying in her arteries and veins. Instead they were going outside of them under her skin making her very swollen. Since she was so swollen her organs were slowly failing as well. They didn’t have the space they needed to function properly and the fact that her blood pressure was low. Regardless of this, we still wanted to give her a chance so we waited there for her. Checking her stats continuously. At a moment her stats had jumped up after she received a dose of epinephrine, her heart rate and blood pressure was better and we could see more hope for her. But after a couple of hours she slowly started to decline again. At this point things were not going well for her. So instead of us deciding she should go on comfort care, she was deciding herself. She fought long and hard but her little body was tired and could only take so much. God knows I would have kept going, I would have never stopped fighting for my baby’s life. I didn’t care if she was going to be disabled or anything I just wanted her. So bad.
Later that night, Gabe’s parents brought Amara in so she could meet her baby sister. Our care team brought in Selah’s ventilator and other machines she was hooked up to in our room so we could spend moments with her before she passed. We finally got to hold her for the first time. She smelled like new baby. I kissed her cheeks and her forehead. I got to rub her hair and feel the warmth of her body. Amara came in and we introduced them. Amara waved “hi” to her little sister and then proceeded to point to her nose and her eyes. In an endearing way that Amara does…There was no way to explain to Amara what was happening but I’m glad she got to see her and touch her. Then Gabe and I had alone time with Selah. We cried out in anguish and despair, we wanted to so badly for our baby to make it. We wanted to have her so badly but the reality was not for us to keep her on this earth. The doctors slowly took her off her machines and Selah slowly drifted to rest with Jesus in our arms. We were able to give her a bath and dress her. At 11:07pm April 27th, 2020 our sweet girl became an angel. The hardest thing was to physically let her go, knowing we would never get to see her again on earth. We would never get to see her grow up and know her personality. We will never know what she could’ve been here on earth. Even though we are grieved beyond what words can explain, we can find comfort in knowing she is not sick or in pain anymore. She is completely healed and with Christ Jesus. We needed her but Jesus needed her more. We know her life had a purpose in ours even if it were only 9 days. Though we have to live the rest of our lives missing a piece of us, we will always have her as a daughter, she will stay in our hearts and memories. She will always be our baby girl Selah Irene. We love her more than I can express.
We have yet to scratch the surface of healing. This will be an ongoing process into us getting back to our normal lives. We will be living a new normal of losing a child. How do you go on from that? How do you let go of what you wanted so bad and it didn’t turn out the way you wanted? God only knows how, so we will continue to take this hard journey with him. Because we know weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. (Psalms 30:5) So as we process this tragedy we have something to look forward to, God’s everlasting joy and his healing power and also that we will see her again in heaven.
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Selah”
Psalms 3:3-4 CSB
February 27th, 2020. A week or so before all of the chaos of the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic, Gabe and I found out we were expecting another beautiful little girl (name yet to be announced). Of course, like any parents, we were excited and expected her to be healthy, just like her big sister. But then our world got turned upside down when we heard there was something abnormal imaged on her scan. A day after the exam, I had to go to a prenatal diagnosis center to have a more detailed scan and for some genetic testing for her--Gabe and myself. This was new territory for us. Never had I expected we would have to be going through all of this. All of my family had healthy babies; and Gabe’s side all had healthy (big) babies too. So why would we ever have a child that could possibly have special needs? It just did not make sense to me. AT ALL.
The first information and concern we had received about her was that she had a protruding belly. Yes, it’s normal for babies to have chubby bellies but not at 20 weeks gestation. Usually at 20 weeks babies are fairly thin, just skin and bone really. Then once I went to the diagnosis center, they told me her entire body was actually covered with more tissue than usual. So she looked a lot bigger than she should, which causes concern because there was obviously something going on with her. Not to mention, I had a lot of extra amniotic fluid (the fluid inside the uterus that protects the baby) which made me look a lot further along than I actually was, causing a risk of preterm labor. Right after we got this news, of course, I went home and googled everything possible this could be and I found some very grim possibilities which broke me down. Bad….but turns out it wasn’t any of these specific diagnoses but there are still SO MANY UNKNOWNS. Still today.
Fast forward to now April 3rd 2020, in the middle of quarantine, (which honestly I have not been too focused on really) I have been admitted to the hospital (UVA) on the account of having pretty consistent contractions. My fluid is severely high and I am 1 1/2 cm dilated at only 25 weeks. All of that adds up to a possibility of me going into preterm labor. This is not good because our baby is still very tiny and not fully developed yet. So it puts her at risk for a lot of complications and on top of that we still have no idea what her specific condition is. So initially we were told we would have to stay here for 24 hours for monitoring, which would be the first time I was gone from our first born, Amara, overnight. I know she’s in good hands with her grandparents but it broke my heart that I would not get to cuddle my baby tonight. Once we got there they checked my cervix again and I had dilated to a little over 2cm within the hour! They gave me a shot to slow it down and continued to monitor me all day, not to mention I had to get my fluid drained by a tiny needle in my belly in the midst of all of this. All of this happening and guess what…we still do not have any concrete answers to why. Why is this happening? Why is she not healthy? Why is this pregnancy completely different than my first? I already had a healthy baby girl, shouldn’t this one be healthy too? All of these questions lead me to one place. Prayer and intimate times with the Lord.
I’ll admit, I’m not the perfect Christian who takes situations like this easily to God and is like “okay God have your way.” My goal is to become like Job. But let’s be honest, I’ve got a lot of work to do. (I suggest reading Job to get what I’m talking about. Basically he was a righteous man and God allowed the devil to plague him and he still praised God and never blamed Him once for it…don’t worry it has a good ending.) But anyways, I’m more like, “Okay God…ummm wait, why, what are you doing? Where are you going with this? Don’t touch that area of my life! What’s the big idea here!?” So when I say I’ve been having intimate times with God, they are more like confrontational meetings. And if any of you know me, I don’t really do confrontation. To be honest, I was angry at God. Because out of all the things I cherish in my life, one of the number one roles is being a mother. Being able to nurture, protect, and raise my sweet babes is one of the best gifts I have ever received. And for that to be taken out of my control threw me off a bit. I didn’t realize I had been idolizing our good health and prosperity these past couple of years. I honestly hadn’t gone through anything remotely this hard in years. So why now? My husband, a mighty man of God, one of his favorite scriptures is James 1:2-4 “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
This is a lovely scripture but when you’re in the thick of it, it is quite hard to consider it “great joy”.
Though it is hard, God says in his word that he will never leave me or forsake me; (Deuteronomy 31:6) and that all things work together for the GOOD of those who LOVE God (Romans 8:28). I find myself leaning on this promise way more because I honestly don’t have anything else. And even though I do not know the outcome, God does. And I have to trust that he will carry my family through these unprecedented times. So I am LEARNING to praise him in the middle of the storm. Praising him that I have the opportunity to carry life within me and to pray over our sweet girls. A good friend told me I am a “strong, strong mama.” I took the compliment even though I don’t feel strong, I know the joy of the Lord is my strength because it says so in his word (Nehemiah 8:10). So I need not to fear. The world can be quite scary and unpredictable. I am learning this. In all my short 25 years of life this is the most difficult time thus far with COVID-19, being quarantined, and the mystery diagnosis of our baby. I have to constantly choose not to blame God, BUT to praise Him in the midst of this. I know he loves me and is a good Father that cares for us (Isaiah 41:10). So I encourage everyone to take this time to be super intentional about reading their bibles and getting to know who Jesus is. It is honestly the only hope we can find in our world at this very moment. I believe these times are purposeful and God is doing something in our entire nation.
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.”