I was reluctant to post this because honestly, it’s not my favorite work. I wanted this to sound much more poetic than it actually is — but I guess it makes sense because this is my least favorite part. All I could do is retell it and invite you to join along.
So here is the continuation of our birth story. If you’re just jumping in, check out part one here. For those who have been following, I’ll continue…
Things were stalling out, but I had just switched positions in the effort to help Joshua down the birth canal. Around 2:30-3ish the doctor informed me he would be breaking my water soon if it didn’t happen naturally. My mom and husband excitedly started getting into their surgical gear. I thought, ‘how weird to see this boy who had been held at a distance at one point, to see him grafted into the family, getting ready for the arrival of the newest family member with his mother-in-law.’ What a weird yet beautiful scene — it made my heart so happy.
The nurses (who are the real heroes let me just say) switched shifts and the newest nurse went to check Joshua’s heartbeat before they’d break my water. She was not finding it as easily and I thought to myself, ‘Don’t panic Bri. She is new and she’s just getting used to where Joshua is positioned now.’ Enough silence went by before a doctor was brought into the room with an ultrasound machine.
All I could do was pray that my nurse had been wrong. I didn’t know whether to watch the doctor’s face or the scan. What would give it away more? The stillness of the monitor, or the creased lines in my doctor’s face?
“So here is where his heart is… as you can see, his heart is not beating anymore.” Who knows what was actually said? I felt like I was in a different realm, watching this happen to a different family. That couldn’t be me who just lost her baby.
I don’t know if the squeeze from my husband’s hand woke me up, or the doctor’s empathetic, “I’m so sorry.” As my husband let out a guttural cry and choked on his tears, I realized, ‘Oh this us. If Michael’s crying, this is happening. This is real.’ My mom held him.
The thing is… I knew this was a possibility. I had heard the doctors’ vague speeches over and over. I had read the Trisomy 18 testimonies on support group pages. I knew the potential outcomes. And even then, I knew Joshua was already in a better place… but nothing ever really prepares you for a tragic reality.
There was a muted acceptance. A morbid sense of peace. God you heard our prayers, and this was your answer. It just wasn’t your will. I had the slightest of smiles, if you could call it that, because surely, we couldn’t both be breaking down. Eventually I said to my husband, “Hey. We know God can do anything, even now. If he wants to confound us all, he can raise Joshua up just like he rose up Lazarus and the little girl. But if he doesn’t… we know he is in the presence of Jesus right now.” I squeezed him and probably cried too.
The doctor gave us at least 30 minutes alone and then came in to break my water because even though my womb was now lifeless, it wasn’t yet empty. I began to push, and Joshua came out within the next 15 or so mins. And with a room of people, what should have been noise and life buzzing about, there was mostly silence. Who knew what to say?
The first words that came out of my mouth as the doctor pulled him out was, “Birth is so weird.” It is and yet it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. Like, “I just did that!” Honestly, I wanted to do it all over right then and there. If only this time I’d get to hold my son alive. My husband was a champ too for standing right by my side and watching it all up close.
The nurses swaddled little Joshua and put a hat on his head before they handed him to me. His eyes were slightly open which was a little weird, but also what I grieve even now: he was so close. My heart nearly stopped when I saw him. His face looked exactly how my husband’s does when he gets his serious look going. He had my head shape with my husband’s specific features. I originally had no idea how our baby would look with Trisomy. When I saw Joshua though, my heart was glad to see him look just like his mommy & daddy.
We took turns holding him. I can’t even say my heart was full in these moments because it was too conflicting. How joyous to see my husband holding our first child, or my mom now a grandmother. While these things were true, they were incomplete. He would have to cover his son’s casket with dirt a week later. She wouldn’t get to spoil her grandson for years to come.
I remember feeling devastated for everyone else… how would they all feel when they were expecting a new title, too? A grandfather or great-grandmother. Our siblings now uncles and aunts. Michael and I now parents. My heart weighed heavy. I remember calling Michael’s grandmother who was so happy to hear our voices. When we broke the news to her, that all turned to sobbing.
Joshua stayed with us for a little while until the nurses silently whisked him away. We took pictures with him. I cried on and off. We laughed on and off. We tried. I almost didn’t want to fall asleep because I knew I wouldn’t wake to see his sweet face. The next morning, I arose and sat at the window until it hit me like a ton of bricks. We just had a baby… he should be here.
The delivering doctor came in not too long after and had confirmed some of the findings he shared with me the previous day. He had said my placenta came out right after Joshua which was a little unusual. There was a blood clot on the back of it and he explained to me that it had abrupted which was likely why I went into early labor. There is no known cause for why these things happen… it wouldn’t be unlikely if something traumatic like a severe fall or accident occurred, but that wasn’t the case.
Our parents wondered, what went wrong? Why didn’t the doctors do something sooner? I think my mom went out into the hall demanding answers. I get it. When something heartbreaking occurs that we truly don’t have the words for, we try our best to find some sort of explanation. If we can find some answer, or a scapegoat to blame, then perhaps we won’t have to face this sort of pain the future. We try to gain some sort of control.
Trust me, we considered an autopsy. We saw our son get healed from seven abnormalities to just one—we wanted to know what happened, too. We wondered if it was our fault. Should we have just gotten the c-section? What would happen if we had continuously monitored him? But it honestly doesn’t matter what these answers are. Because remember? Control is not peace.
The only thing that could take away the guilt and anger from potentially gnawing at us was trusting God’s sovereignty, albeit as weakly as we could. That and the reality that our son was now fully healed and whole in the arms of our Savior.
Though he bawled like a baby at first, my husband has seemed to be at peace ever since. He shared with me how that day in the hospital room, he saw this image burning into his heart: Joshua walking with Jesus. He was at peace knowing that.
People may think Christianity is a crutch, a distorted perception we blind ourselves with to explain away hard things like this. ‘God had to have a plan to allow this hellish thing to happen…’ right? I for one don’t see that plan in action right now and frankly I don’t know if I ever will on this side of eternity. But I’m learning to be honest with God as much as I can, and cling to him in the gap between the now and not yet.
There is a lot I don’t know or that I even still question… but there is an absolute assurance that for those who trust in God, they will meet him face to face. Death is not just the end for them, but it is a doorway. Jesus, through the cross, has built a bridge for us to enter into eternity with him. Not everyone will go to heaven because not everyone knows Jesus; they cannot get there on their own.
It’s not about how good you are on earth – or even bad. You can be Mr. Rogers, the Dalai Lama, heck Ted Bundy… but unless you know Jesus and believe that He died for your sins on the cross in order to bring forgiveness and relationship between you and God, then you will be eternally separated from God and let’s just say heaven ain’t your home.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
There is good news though for those who have lost an infant like myself because I too wondered, how could Joshua be in heaven if he didn’t have the chance to know Jesus? For someone emotionally and intellectually incompetent, like an infant, it is believed that they, too, will go to heaven because they haven’t even had the chance yet to learn of who Jesus is and what he has done for them. But we know that on the cross, Jesus was looking at every unborn child and dying for their sins too, making a way for them to enter into eternal security.
Though I may not fully be able to grasp it myself yet, there is no wishful thinking or doubt that Joshua is safe, healed and whole in the presence of Love himself. There is full assurance. But I want you to know that the pain of it is still real. I mourn the loss of every moment I haven’t gotten to have with Joshua while my friends move on with their babies. It’s still heavy from time to time — thankfully my Savior carries the weight for me.
I ask God to give me the faith to believe in the following truth and hope for it with all my heart… and I want to invite those who have experienced the brokenness of this world, but don’t know the hope there is in Jesus Christ to join me:
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:4)
As we wait for the fulfillment of this promise, we still experience the loss and pain here on this side of eternity. We wait in between the tension of the now and not yet. We wait with God’s loving heart comforting us in our affliction, so that we may comfort others in their affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Perhaps this is the part of my story where I’m not quite on the other side, yet I write my way through. I pray for you who may be feeling the weight of this broken world, that our story would remind you: You’re not alone. And there is a greater hope. Let’s (not so) patiently await Him together.
"If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:25