Blog by Heather Hale
No parent should ever have to endure the pain of losing a child. Unfortunately I have experienced that loss twice. On December 2, 2016 I had an emergency C-section at 28 weeks and gave birth to identical twin girls. Ava Elise and Sadie Mae weighed just over a pound each and were very ill with Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. The Doctors told us the outcome was uncertain; if they survived they would likely be deaf or suffer severe mental or physical delays. Despite this negative report we put our hope and trust in God and believed for two healthy babies. Immediately following the delivery the twins were rushed to the NICU. They were hooked up to ventilators and received blood transfusions daily. Slowly but surely they started to progress! The Doctors seemed surprised – but we weren’t. We had seen God do miracles in our daughter Hazel’s body and we were confident He was doing the same for the twins!
On the morning of December 16th we got a phone call from the NICU. My heart sunk; it was unusual for them to call us. It was the Doctor, she said Ava had taken a turn for the worst and we needed to come to the hospital right away! We raced to the hospital crying out to God the entire way, begging Him not to take our sweet baby. Despite our prayers and the efforts of the medical team, Ava’s health continued to decline. Every hour the nurse gave us an update and asked us if we wanted to continue with the life support. What were we supposed to do? What if God was about to perform a miracle? How long should we wait? Finally my husband (who hears from God more often than I do) told me that it was time to let Ava go. With tears streaming down my face I held my baby for the first time as she took her last breath.
It was difficult visiting Sadie in the NICU with Ava’s empty isolette next to her. It served as a reminder of what we had lost. I remember telling my husband that I couldn’t go through this pain again; Sadie had to survive. By the grace of God she continued to progress, we were optimistic! Ava’s memorial service was scheduled for December 22nd. That morning we got another call from the NICU; again my heart dropped. I didn’t want to answer the phone this time. The Doctor said that Sadie had developed an infection and her status was rapidly declining. We needed to get there as soon as possible. How could this be happening again?! When we got there I thought for sure we had already lost her but they had kept her alive long enough for us to say goodbye. Sadie went to be with Jesus and her sister just a few short hours before the memorial service which would now be held in honor of both girls. I was numb. How could God let this happen? The pain was almost too much to bear.
Seven months have passed. People often tell Chris and I that we are so strong and that they don’t know how we do it. Truth be told we are weak but as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 God makes us strong through our weakness. Honestly when you are going through something like this you don’t really have a choice but to put one foot in front of the other, take each day as it comes and trust that God will see you through. What has gotten us to this point is our resolve to stay thankful and joy-filled despite our circumstance. We are thankful that we were able to meet Ava and Sadie and for the time we had with them. We are thankful that God in His infinite mercy didn’t allow them to suffer. We have great joy in knowing we will see them again in their perfect, healthy heavenly bodies! We are thankful that we still have a child on this side of heaven. Hazel’s smile brings us so much joy even on days when we just want to be sad and sit with our grief. Something like this can break your spirit if you let it but we choose joy. Rather than count our losses we count our blessings. Rather than stay angry at God we declare His goodness. Rather than surrendering to the negative thoughts that come we shift our focus to the positive. That’s not to say that we no longer have bad days; we are still mourning the loss of our girls and of the future plans we had for them. Still we have to believe that something good is going to come out of our situation. We trust that God is going to use our testimony to help other families, although we are not sure what that looks like just yet.
After suffering consecutive traumatic losses like these you discover what is truly important to you. I have always been very career-minded but I recently made the decision with my husband’s support to stay home with our daughter and put all my focus on her and our marriage. Family is what is important to us. That being said we still want more children one day. After having gone through two difficult pregnancies God has put it on our hearts to adopt! We plan to begin that process when we are ready. For now we are just trying to stay encouraged as we continue on this grief journey constantly reminding ourselves that God is still good!