Sunday, October 31

on a happier note...

last night we celebrated Josh and Meredith getting married... it was beautiful and touching and i cried sad and happy tears. we saw a lot of good friends... a lot of our counselors --- our little family --- came, which was really encouraging to us.

i of course forgot to take photos during the daylight.

during the ceremony, josh and meredith honored Gwendolyn by walking a single pink rose down to blair and me. (cue tears.)

during the daddy daughter dance, i was sad that blair wasn't able to dance with gwenny. but most of the day was joyful... and i'm thrilled for them.

long day...

this morning we went to church. i cried the whole service through.

on the drive there, we listened to a Selah cd that my dear friend gave to me. On the cd, Todd sings the song, "I Surrender All". The song has always had a profound meaning for me, ever since i rededicated my life to Christ in my high school years. But this morning I couldn't handle the song, or the memories of how fervently I have sung that to my Lord. See, God and I have this "no lying" policy. (well, I should say that I have a "no lying" policy towards Him, since it is impossible for God to lie.) I have sworn that i will not say anything to God that i don't fully mean - intellectually, soulfully, and emotionally. So if i'm singing a song that says something i don't agree with or cannot honestly confess to Him at that moment, i don't sing that line/song.

And this morning, i was confronted with the question, "Do you surrender all to Me, Erin?" And i couldn't answer Him. because I would never, never, never, willingly give Gwendolyn up. I hope that I could love Jesus enough to be obedient, and joyfully so, but I cannot say that I would give her up, if offered the choice.

During the month of October, our church has read the story of Abraham and Isaac during our call to worship. And two weeks ago, as i sat there counting contractions all throughout the service, I thought, "I don't have that, God. I don't have the attitude and trust of Abraham to sacrifice my child, my only child whom i love, to you." (and i thought this, thinking that i would never really have to... or the "sacrifice" would be some type of metaphor for when they're going through rebellious teenage years.)

I cried all the way to church, thinking of how I love Gwen and am not willing to give her up, and how "he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37) So I lose daughter and Jesus? (I know, theologically that i cannot lose Jesus nor He lose me; but it is the question of my heart's loyalty to Him is at stake.)

And the service was filled with songs that i could not sing, like, "If ever i loved Thee, My Jesus tis now." So, i'm not really sure how to process this question that He still poses before me. I kindof just want to ignore it. But annoyingly, He's expanding the question in my mind, and reminding me that what i have and WHO i have in my life are gifts... could i surrender Blair? my parents and family? my friends? Could i hold them loosely, knowing they are but gifts and never mine in the first place?

Nope. my honest answer is currently, "heck no." I know He'll be working on that in my heart, and eventually i will surrender my will to His... but right now, i'm not there.

Blair and I went took a picnic lunch to Gwenny's plot. We took a pumpkin and the last photo of me pregnant with her... at the pumpkin patch. I've always liked cemeteries... you can go there and never be bothered, you can have any type of emotion and it's somehow allowed there. I didn't think I would want to frequent her plot, but i might surprise myself.

Thursday, October 28

carried by grace

i just spent the morning coughing up phlegm (what a gross word) and reading through Sarah's blog. She has been a huge source of encouragement to me, and what i saw over and over again in her blog is her decision to keep on living. She chooses joy in Christ over the pain of losing Holden, and I am truly astounded by her.

Last night Blair and I went to the pumpkin carving and chili cook-off at camp. I didn't expect it to be as hard as it was... this was one of those little deaths. I had hoped to bring Gwen and show her off. Both of us had been in more of a fragile mood yesterday, and it was difficult to smile and laugh. And i know that my sweet friends don't quite know what to do to love on us... keep loving and asking and hugging all the same, please. Just know sometimes i will not want to talk or smile.

by the grace of God, i purpose to live today... i think a walk and making carrot cake are in order.

Wednesday, October 27

one week

i long for her.

i've stayed busy today.

Do you know that amos lee song, "colors"? the chorus says "when you're gone, all the colors fade", and i have resonated with that the last few days. My attention is not easily held by anything, except maybe facebook and blogs. Books, movies, eating... not so much. (I do eat though; don't worry mom.) 

But today i have been consumed with figuring out how to make a blog look pretty (thanks Justin for helping me out). And now that i am somewhat satisfied with how it looks, i will write. 

This morning i had a picture in my mind of a baby sleeping on a big bed, surrounded by pillows. You know how we make those cushy barriers to keep the baby from falling? I was picturing the Holy Spirit doing that for us, and how He has cushioned us in, preparing us for this journey. Examples: I started going to a bible study on Heaven this fall. Recently I had asked the Lord what my cross to bear was... i know now. We had finally been able to spend more time at church, building relationships - and when last week hit, our church family knew us and have loved on us well. He placed us in a community of believers at Camp Eagle who also carry our hearts. Our birth class instructor spent a good portion one night going over what happens during a c-section, and also had us "create" our birth plans and smash them, to remind us that what we get will most likely not be what we imagined. Our pastor has been preaching through Colossians, and both of us have loved learning what it means to truly rejoice in salvation.

And this morning I pictured the Spirit preparing us, saying things like "This will hurt them in this way... i will put another pillow here. Or pad them with more community here. Or put this scripture on their hearts to remind them of Truth when they hurt." I'm thankful for the tenderness of the Spirit in His preparation. 

Of course, the flip side of that is that the same Lord that was preparing us for grief could also have changed everything and allowed Gwen to live. But I am not God, and arguing with Him (at this point) is just not helpful to me. So while i continue to cry out, "WHY!?" with many tears and sobs, I know that He does not need to explain Himself to me. He can and is still Good, even with His mysteriousness. 
(I just thought of those lines from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, where Lucy is discussing Aslan with Beaver... she asks if he's safe, and the the Beaver responds, "Safe? Who said anything about 'safe'? 'Course he isn't safe. But He's good. He's the King, I tell you.")

Also, the tests results were inconclusive. There were a few factors that when maybe put all together could possibly be a reason she didn't survive, but she couldn't say for sure. I feel okay with this. 

Tonight is a chili cook-off and pumpkin carving at camp. I'm anticipating good friends and good hugs, with moments of sadness weaving through it all. I so wanted my little pumpkin baby to be here for this. 

Tuesday, October 26


We're waiting on a phone call from Dr. Conway, the head doctor of labor and delivery at the hospital. They've been running tests on my placenta to see if they can determine what went wrong with Gwen's labor.

I don't want her to have anything conclusive. I don't want her to tell me that something is wrong with my body, that i did something wrong during pregnancy or labor, or that my body should not try to conceive again. These, i think, are the worst possible things she could say to me.

A friend sent the book, Holding On To Hope by Nancy Guthrie. I'm only in the 1st chapter and already have been so grateful to fully resonate with another woman:

"Our culture wants to put the Band-Aid of heaven on the hurt of losing someone we love. Sometimes it seems like the people around us think that because we know the one we love is in heaven, we shouldn't be sad. But they don't understand how far away heaven feels, and how long the future seems as we see before us the years we have to spend on this earth before we see the one we love again." 

Now i have definitely not felt the first section... people are so gracious to me in my grief, crying with me and encouraging me to continue to cry out to the Lord. But heaven does feel so far away. And while i hope in heaven, and have the security of heaven awaiting me, i feel the loss of "upcoming" hope. I hoped for October 14. I lived in constant anticipation of Gwen's birth. I reveled in every baby blanket, cloth diaper, and knit hat i planned on her wearing. I looked forward to sewing her christmas stocking, excited to take her for holidays with the family. When i finally started having contractions, I was unable to sleep, even though they were light. And every moment during labor brought me closer to her, and that made the pain of contractions bearable.

Now i have no 'upcoming' hope. Nothing awaiting me, nothing joyful on the horizon. I love my husband, i love our ministry, i love my life. those are still all good things, and i'm very thankful for them. but i am missing something small, round and pink, weighing a beautiful 10 pounds, 1 ounce. I identify with Nancy,

"Part of my heart is no longer mine. I gave it to [Gwendolyn] and she took it with her, and i will forever feel that amputation."

comfort, comfort my people

My thoughts aren't very collected this morning... I actually think i'm getting sick, if my sore throat and headache mean anything.

These are verses that have been running through my head today:

"My tears have been my food, day and night," Psalm 42:3

"He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" Isaiah 53:3

"Am i not more to you than ten sons?" 1 Samuel 1:8

"I have forgotten what happiness is; But this I call to mind and therefore I HAVE HOPE: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore i will hope in him.' The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him... For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he WILL have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men." Lamentations 3:17, 22-25, 31-33 (italics and emphasis mine)

"Give us this day our daily bread," Matthew 6:11

Monday, October 25


are rough. i woke this morning and laid in bed, recalling my dreams and thankful that they weren't grief filled. The grief came rushing in, when i glanced over to the co-sleeper and was reminded yet again that she's not there.

I yelled at God in my head this morning. (I didn't want to wake Blair.) Why!? Why me, when so many horrible mothers don't want their babies?? i WANT mine.

I feel hurt by God. He hurt my feelings, which is a very odd sensation to be in with the Almighty. I know that He's good, but this does not seem like goodness. It seems out of character for Him. I was thinking of this passage,

"Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:9-11

This is a stone, God! I don't understand, and you hurt my feelings, and i don't see how this is good. But i know you are good, and incapable of evil. so please show me your goodness.

I got up and made tea (sage tea apparently reduces breast milk, so i'm trying it. but it tastes wretched, even with mounds of honey.) And read in Matthew. I've been reading Matthew and Luke concurrently, and today I was in Matthew 17, the transfiguration of Jesus. And while this was out of context (being married to a MBI graduate makes you very conscientious of taking the Word of God as it was meant to be taken), it still spoke to me:

" But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise, and have no fear'. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only." Matthew 17:7-8

Lord, enable me to have no fear and to see no one by you only, sweet Jesus.

Sunday, October 24

before i have a panic attack

i just need to give a disclaimer on here... i am freaked out by people telling me i'm strong. Blair and i had this conversation last night... we don't feel strong, we feel incredibly weak, fragile, and on the verge of breakdowns at the drop of a hat. And, as the people pleaser that i am, if i assume that people assume i am strong, i will try to keep up that front to keep people pleased. and that's not what this blog will be.

it's very possible that at some point on this blog i will be yelling (if you can yell through type) and possibly even curse as i attempt to live... really live, clinging to Jesus. so please know that if there is anything good, it is Jesus. if there is anything pure and lovely, faith-filled or merciful, it is Jesus.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."

okay, i'm done. panic attack averted.

to give grief a witness

It's saturday, and most of the family and friends have left. I have made it to dinner... I feel proud when i make it to dinner. the day is almost over, and sleep will soon overtake me and i will not think or cry for a few hours. 

my good friends reece and sarah sent me a facebook message with a youtube video attached. "I Will Carry You" about Audrey Smith, baby to Todd from the singing group Selah, has ministered to my soul. I then went on a stalking spree and found Angie (the mom's) blog and have been comforted by the words of another mom who has grieved the death of a baby girl. The previous post is an email i sent to her. 

I need to find food, and perhaps drink a glass of wine for the third night in a row. 

"I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me." Somehow i will keep going, and keep waking and sleeping and being sustained.

The Story of my Daughter

Hi there. This morning a friend of mine emailed me a youtube video of "I Will Carry You" , and it led me to a morning of pseudo-stalking your family and your story. My name is Erin, and 4 days ago, my 36 hour baby girl died. And while I don't know you, and don't expect you to respond in any way, I feel comforted a bit to write my story to someone who has traveled this road.

Again, my name is Erin. I'm married to an amazing man, who continues to astound me through all of this. Blair and I are both believers, and work in a christian camping ministry in the Texas Hill Country. Camp Eagle is a non-profit, adventure based camp that believes that outdoor adventure, authentic relationships, and biblical Truth can truly have an effect on the upcoming generation and turn their hearts to Jesus. It's kindof small though, and in the middle of literally nowhere, Texas. (you cannot find us on a map.) We live, work, minister, and play with about 45 other full time staff, family, and students. 

In January, three of us married women all found out that we were pregnant, due within about 6 weeks of each other. We were ecstatic... Blair and I have been married for 2.5 years, and wanted to get started on our family. My baby was due October 14. The pregnancy was... delicious, if i can use such a term. :) I loved every moment of it. Possibly not the throwing up moments, or I'm-so-hungry-at-3am-I-think-i'm-going-to-faint moments, but I loved being pregnant. 

We wanted to have a natural birth, with midwives at a birthing center in San Antonio (about a 2 hour drive from home.) All of our appointments were encouraging, and I never experienced anything abnormal or unusual throughout the 40 weeks. When summer came, my pregnancy became even more exciting, if that were possible. I now had 5 college girls that I discipled who worked in our summer camp program, and they made pregnancy hilarious. Every week we had a new batch of campers who would touch my belly, be annoyed that i refused to find out the sex of our baby, and suggest ridiculous names for each gender. 

While i love our camp ministry, I was eagerly anticipating being a stay at home mom. with my two neighbors who were also expecting, I knew I wouldn't get too lonely or bored with them around. I also was so excited about the ministry of being a stay at home mom - loving my husband and raising our children to love Jesus and impact the world... can life be more rewarding? I thought not. 

Summer ended, and my anticipation for birth went up drastically... it was almost here! (and by almost i mean 3 months away. but 3 months is so much closer than 8!) Our midwife appointments went from once a month to every two weeks, and we started having the normal baby preparation showers, shopping, registering and returning gifts, figuring out which cloth diapers would be best and what would i do if had a boy---circumcision or not? (we decided yes, but as it turns out we had a girl.)

My camp friends had their babies at the end of August and beginning of September. One neighbor already had a two year old. My other friend, Anne, was a first time mommy like me. She would come over and we would lament all of her baby's gas problems, and what possible solutions she could try. We kept joking about making up a system to let the other person know that they were awake with their baby at 3am... then we would sit on each other's porches in the early morning hours and cry or laugh about the lack of sleep we were getting. Everyone at camp was just waiting for the last little one to come.

My labor started last saturday... one week ago. wow. I had contractions about every 10 minutes... nothing to be too excited about, but I was all the same. On sunday the contractions picked up to 5 minutes apart, and I was SO excited that the time had finally come! I would meet my baby. And find out if it was a girl or a boy, and my husband and I would be forced to finally agree on a name (something that eluded us for 9 months.) My new life was about to start... glory. 

We had gone to church on Sunday, and stayed in the area to see how contractions went. We then drove to San Antonio, and stayed with some friends for the night. At 1:46am I knew i had entered active labor, but didn't call the midwives until 5:30am. We went in to the center, and she checked me... annoyingly I was only 2cm dilated. I had to go 'rest' for a few hours. (Seriously, why do they think you can rest when you are contracting???) My parents had come down from Dallas, so we went to their hotel and I "rested". At 8:45am we went back to the center, and she checked me. I was at a 3, and she stretched me to a 5. I could stay! The baby was coming. and holy cow, it hurt. 

The next few hours were measured by contractions, with 45 second breaks in between. The baby's heartbeat was great. Everything was progressing well. I was in transition. They kept telling me, "you're really close, Erin. really close." I kept thinking, "I'm done with this, I can't do this, and I will never judge a woman getting an epidural ever again!!" 

Around 2:30pm they came to check the heartbeat again. And she couldn't find it... so they had me move to a different position... perhaps the baby was just so low and turned funny they couldn't reach it? No, still couldn't find it. And at this point i begin to worry, and know somewhere deep in my soul that something is very wrong. I get out of the tub as fast as i can, and onto the bed, where the head midwife comes to check me. She is very anxious and they call 9-1-1. EMT is taking too long though, so they hustle me out to a car, and with a sports bra and a towel on, my husband and I race to the hospital, which thankfully is 5 minutes away. We arrive, and walk as fast as i can through contractions to the OB/GYN emergency room, where they prep me for an emergency c-section. 

I remember that it's ridiculous that i have to sign papers while contracting/going for a c-section, that the razor hurts as they shave me, that i can't believe this is happening after a normal pregnancy and labor. The doctor tells me that the baby might be dead upon delivery, and to be prepared for that. (be prepared for that?! how can you be prepared for that? what a stupid thing to say.)  They rush me to the room, and the anesthesiologist has the brightest blue eyes that i can remember. I choose to focus on this, and not on what is happening. They put me under. I woke, obviously fuzzy and hear my husband talking to me. He tells me it's a girl (a girl! i thought it was a boy.) and that she weighed 10 lbs, 1oz. She's in NICU, he says. I assumed this would happen, and that I wouldn't see her right away. She was without oxygen for 10-30 minutes, and has liver and heart damage.Okay, that's do-able. Obviously not great, but do-able. People recover from that. They tell me that I have severe preeclampsia, and I am now on morphine, antibiotics, and magnesium. And do you know that they come and press on your uterus after all of this? I thought i was going to punch the nurse in the face.  

I keep waiting for the NICU to tell me something encouraging, to bring me my daughter or let me go to her. The beds have wheels, and the hospital has large elevators. Shouldn't be a problem. Blair is allowed to go see her at 8pm, but I am not. Since I wasn't allowed, my nurse went and took photos of her and brought them to us. She was huge! beautiful. Pink, with light colored hair. Had an air tube already. I was ready to see my baby. They let blair see her... he took more photos and showed them to me. NICU came down at some point that night, and told us that it's important that I get up there right away to see her. She had started to crash. 

She had so many wires attached to her body. She wasn't breathing on her own. Every few minutes she would gasp involuntarily. Her eyes stayed shut. She made no spontaneous movement, which worried the NICU doctors. All her organs were failing, they said. She needed to drain some of the fluids that they had pumped into her, but her kidneys were not functioning. She was beginning to swell. I don't even remember what I thought those first few moments. I had an intense longing to hold her, but I knew i couldn't. We sat with her, and i spoke to her, hoping that somehow my voice would revive something in her. 

My body could only handle sitting for so long. I was so frustrated by that... why couldn't I at least be able to sit with her all night? We went back to the room and slept. Tuesday was a blur... family coming in and out, a few visits up to see her. Blair and I joked about calling her "Miracle", but decided on Gwendolyn, which means Blessed. Gwendolyn Hope, a reminder of our Blessed Hope, Jesus. (which, by the way, was never a name on our list.) We were praying for a miracle. When I sat with her, I kept telling Jesus, "Lord, You'd have to bring her back from the dead. Her body is dead, and wherever she is, I just want her whole. Whole here on earth with us, or whole in the Kingdom. But please, please bring her back from the dead." I would sing "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" to her, and remind her that we love her. 

On Tuesday evening, she flat lined and we were rushed up to see her. A neurologist was there, and he came to evaluate her. Basically everything he said came down to, "Your daughter is brain-dead." The NICU doctors told us that they can keep reviving her when she flat lines, but that it damages her each time. Blair and I decided that all of this was possibly just keeping her from Jesus, and that we needed to allow her to go to Him. We asked the doctors to keep doing all that they were to help her, but that if she flat lines again, to not resuscitate. If God still wanted to raise her from the dead, I knew He was able. I sang the last few lines of "Come to Jesus" by Chris Rice... Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus and Live! 

We asked that they allow us to bring up all our family, and they did. My parents, and my brother and sister with their spouses came up. We gathered around her, praying, reading scripture, and singing to her for an hour. I kept thinking that now would be a beautiful time for her to pass, and go straight from hearing us worship the Lord to worshipping Him in His presence, with the angels. But she didn't... she hung on a few more hours. 

At 2:30am on Wednesday morning they rushed us up there again. Her heartbeat was going down, and they disconnected her from everything so that i could finally hold her. She was so heavy! Her poor body had been so full of blood transfusions that she was purple, but still so beautiful. Her body was cold, and I tried to warm her with my breath and kisses. I thought of the miracle where Jesus? or Peter? or Paul? I couldn't remember... stretched themselves out on the dead person, eyes to eyes, nose to nose, mouth to mouth, and they were revived. I thought there was no harm in trying, but my Gwen didn't revive. Blair and I sat and loved her, praying for her and speaking to her. The doctor came in to ask about embalming. I kindof hated him then. 

My parents came, and my sister and her husband. We wanted to not be guilty of not having because we didn't ask, so we sat for awhile with Gwen and asked God to bring her back from the dead, if that was His good pleasure. But for his glory, He kept her. We kissed her goodbye around 6am and went back to the room to sleep for a few hours. 

They wouldn't release me until I had passed gas (during the c-section they also removed my appendix, because it was enlarged... that apparently messes up your bowels and they want to make sure everything passes properly before they discharge you.) By evening I was tired of waiting, and argued with my nurse that it was time for me to leave. Shortly thereafter my body cooperated, and Blair and I were home by 10:30pm. 

Thursday was full of funeral plans. Our hope for Gwen, for all our children, is that they glorify God. Our prayer for the service was that it would be worshipful, and draw others unto the Lord. We had been so amazed by people's responses to our situation, and were overwhelmed by the amount of facebook support and prayers that we received, often from people unknown to us. We knew that already God was answering our request, and encouraging people's hearts to come to Him. 

The service was on Friday, and our Pastor (whom we love, and who is unafraid to preach the entirety of the Word of God) spoke on Hope - the hope that we hold because of Jesus, the hope of eternal life, the hope of seeing Gwendolyn again, the hope of future children, and Christ in us, the hope of glory. We sang the songs that i sang to Gwen during her time with us, and were loved on by so many people. 

Today is Saturday. My thoughts and emotions are everywhere, and I still can't believe that all of this is really real... that she's not back in the nursery that we created for her, that she's not still in my belly waiting to come out. The staples and pain in my stomach remind me that it's all too true. What I hate the most right now is the loss of what was supposed to be... I had hoped and prayed and dreamt and anticipated a whole new chapter of life. I can't begrudge Gwen for being with Jesus... how much better! But oh, how I wanted her. How i still want her, here with me. 

I don't make sense to anyone, i think. I don't make sense to myself. I vacillate between joy and grief, anger and tears in .60 seconds. I know my God is good. I don't understand how this is a part of His goodness, but I know He's still good. While in the hospital i kept saying, "I live by faith. I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me. and today i will live by faith, and not think about tomorrow." And i'm trying to remind myself of that still. but i'm bombarded by life... do i go back to work? do we get pregnant again? what do i do with her things? how soon do i pack them up? what does this next year look like, now that everything i hoped for is stripped away? how do i go on? 

And the answer is still, I live by faith, a moment at a time. And now i will close my computer, dry my eyes, and find dinner for myself and the family that is still here. and hope and pray that God will speak to me, because I need so desperately to hear Him.