Sunday, October 24

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.


  1. Erin,

    I just want you to know you and your husband have been so heavy on my heart this past week. I was staying updated through various NHBC friends and keeping you in prayer. I cannot begin to imagine your grief, just imagining myself in your position is overwhelming and I cannot comprehend the overwhelming grief just thinking of it. Just know I will keep you and Blair in my prayers...many of my close friends here pray for you too. I pray God allows you sleep so your mind and body and soul can rest and for the waking moments that He will slowly begin to heal you then as well. Praying for you constantly.

    -Katie Gregory

  2. Oh, Sweetie. I am so glad to read that you have these questions. I was afraid to ask them because I didn't know if they would hurt you or if you were even asking them. I've only seen the strong side but how naive of me to think that there wasn't a weak side too. I just want to make life all better for you. I dreamed I had twins and gave you, I'm 99.9% sure there's only one in there and I'm pretty sure Michael wouldn't let me give one away lol.

    I am so blessed to have you as a friend.


  3. Erin,

    Again I am a friend of Blair's from Moody. (I don't know if you got my fb note yet or not) but I want you to know that I admire your brave spirit.

    I know you were in an incredible mom to Gwendolyn Hope for those nine months and few hours after of her sweet short life.

    Thank you for sharing this. Praying for you & Blair.

    Love in Him,

    Kate Miller

  4. Erin,
    We love you so much and want so badly to make things better. I have cried harder and hurt more this week than I think I ever have in my life. I have been so excited for you and this baby (sweet Gwendolyn) and pictured things so differently for you. I know that there is nothing we can say or do to make things any better. I have never been a facebook person but I got on this week so I could find out how to pray for you. I have been amazed by you as you have, and are walking through one of my biggest fears. I can't explain how, but my faith in our Almighty God and His love has been strengthened through your perseverance and unshakened faith during this trial. I can see your love and trust in Him through your words and the Scriptures you post. Thank you for your honesty and "realness". I am praying that He will continue to carry you through this trial. I will not stop praying.
    In His Love,

  5. Erin, I have been thinking about you so much. I can't even imagine what you're going through. We are praying for you, and will continue to do so. I'm so glad you found Angie's blog. I have another friend who lost her sweet baby girl, and her blog may be an encouragement to you as well. It's:
    Pleae let us know if there is anything we can do to help. We will continue to pray that the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. A group of us will be sending a package in a few weeks, so hopefully that will be an encouragement as well.
    Love you friend,
    Katie Castillejos

  6. Erin,
    You make plenty of sense. You are a human. You are a woman. You are a mama.
    And you are grieving.
    Grief is a very, very strange thing. It's unpredictable. BUT God is not. He goes before you and hems you in. He is there and want to be with you. He hears you and wants to be heard.
    Your testimony is beautiful. Keep doing exactly what you are doing: take each new day and each new moment to your loving Savior.
    Please know you continue to be prayed for by many. Not just last Tuesday. Not just last week. Not just the now.
    For your whole season of healing.

    I'm glad you started this blog. It will help you. It will help those of us who are praying for you. AND It, I believe with all my heart, it will help other women who find themselves in the same dark valley you journey.

    much love in Christ,
    Grateful for Grace
    (If you pop over to my blog, I'm hoping you'll recognize my face)

  7. Erin - you don't know me, but mutual friends (and my daughter, Sarah Selch) posted about you, Blair, and Gwendolyn that I read. You are in my prayers. I don't know the grief you feel, but I know the struggle to trust God during it. He knows as well, knows how in one breath you cling to him, in another you want to push every one away. Our Savior understands, and will not forsake you, especially during this time.

    Friends of mine who have lost a child have said that while the memory remains, the pain of loss eases. And, even more, they say that the experience has opened a new ministry for them, in reaching out to those who have also faced a loss.

    You are blessed by having family and friends who love you, care for you, and want to ease your burden in any way they can. Some of us can be there by your side, ready to give a hug or squeeze, some only in our thoughts and prayers. But the main thing is that we ARE with you in spirit, and in the Spirit. God bless you and Blair, and if ever we meet in the flesh count me as a friend who cares.

    Doug Irvin

  8. From Bethanie Harrison via Autumn Beck (delivered through FB message):

    I went to HS with Autumn and have been praying for you, your daughter, husband and family. I'm sitting here nursing my 3 month old daughter and crying as I read your beatuiful spirit poured out on this site and mourning with you your Blessed Hope. Sweet sweet mom, I want to wrap my arms around you and love on you. I see God at work in you now as already you exude a strength and peace that could only come from Him (you may not feel that way but it's on every word you typed).
    As a new mom myself, I've had crazy "what if" fears regarding my precious little girl. Realizing that these fears are a form of bondage I have asked God to strengthen my faith and remove my fears. Your faith (walking by faith, not sight) through all this which you have graciously opened up and exposed to us in such a raw moment is, well, teaching me for lack of a better way to verbalize.
    My heart and soul grieve and ach for you. You and your family will daily be in my prayers as you feel your way through each new day. May God seal you and your husband in his loving peace & strength. I pray that the holy spirit in you will sing out your yearnings and needs to God when you can't do so for yourself and that the spirit will be your steady light.

    -Bethanie Harrison

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience Erin. Strength is found in our weakness and how glorified God is that you are open about your weakness.

    Before I even knew the full story, I saw the pictures and it reminded me of the last few days with my mom in the hospital. She too was a singer and loved to praise the Lord in song. In her final days she would begin to sing hymns that had the name of Jesus in them, for she knew there is power in His name, and the pain would subside. As her strength faded, her singing became more a of grunt and we would sing for her, and the pain would subside. Keep singing His name Erin and the devil must flea.

    When you have the strength, I encourage you to do a study on those who grieved in the Bible. If you do not have the strength, I would love to go through for you and share the addresses, names and stories. It was many years after my mother passed that I deliberately chose to read the books that so many avoid - the depressing ones - (Job, Eccl, Lamentations)but it brought me comfort in very dark times when the words and good intentions could not penetrate the consuming pain. I think of Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth who were deprived for son long the joy of a child. There is Naomi who insisted she not be called by her name which means "pleasant" but be called "bitter." I think the way in which the people of the OT grieved is remarkable. It was all out, no denial, no holding back before the Lord. It takes courage to grieve, especially in our culture. May you be strong and take courage... to grieve.

    Love you & God Bless you,

  10. Sweet Erin -

    I am weeping, yet I am smiling through the tears. That probably sounds weird, but sometimes emotions are like that. I feel so privileged to get this glimpse into your pain and how God is healing and being glorified through it all. You are such a godly woman and the light of Christ shines brightly through you. I saw the precious pictures on FB and the one that touched me the most was the one of you holding Gwendolyn close, breathing your life and your love into her. Beautiful and completely heartbreaking at the same time. I praise God that your baby girl is pain-free and in the arms of Jesus. Yet, I grieve your immense loss, too. And I've been lifting you and Blair up in prayer multiple time each day, as are so many others, and will continue to do so. Much love from our entire family -
    Anna Olson

  11. I don't know you well as we've only met once or twice, but I know your dear sister Autumn and had been following your pregnancy through her. Your feelings do make sense: the way you love Gwendolyn is the way only a mother can love. I have no doubt that she felt your presence over her, praying for her and treasuring her sweet little life. I weep and grieve with you and praise God that this is not the end for those of us who believe in Him.

  12. Erin-
    I don't know you, but I know your sister, Autumn, thru Erica Valenzuela Thompson. I was so grieved for your situation when Erica shared with me on Tuesday night. My husband and I began to pray as soon as we heard. You and your family are so precious and so strong. I pray that God would continue to keep you strong, that He would minister his grace and peace to you daily and help you recover quickly physically and heal you by His amazing grace in your hearts and minds. Standing with you in the faith! Stephanie Daniels

  13. Gwendolyn Hope is the most beautiful and blessed child I could have ever thought. She is going to work through God and she will be with you and Blair always. God has amazing plans for her with him and just know those plans will be shared with the both of you. Erin and Blair, have God wrap his arms around you, he has them around Blessed Hope. There will be so very many lives that will change here on earth because of Gwendolyn, it is in Gods plan and oh my what a gracious plan it will be.

    Talk to her, she will hear you and see you, God will not take that away. God Loves the both of you so much, just you yourselves are going to shine through so many people and Gwendolyn Hope will be right there with you. Amazing. Praise God.

    I send both of you my love, thoughts and prayers, you see God has blessed us who can be taught through the both of you.

    Stacy Stone

  14. You do make sense, so much sense, my dear Erin. Thank you for being willing to share your burden with the rest of us- the many, many of us who love you. We have your plant on the table, and Gwendolyn's flower in our van. When we see them, we pray for you and Blair, and we think of your sweet Gwenny.

    Love, Mand

  15. Please know that another angel mommy is praying for you tonight and sending love from Seattle. You are not alone. Know that someday, you will be able to breathe again. Reach out whenever you need it. We are here for each other and God will carry all of us when we cannot walk. Thinking of you and your sweet Gwendolyn.

    Mary Beth

  16. I found your blog through another blog and just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. I cannot even begin to imagine the roller coaster of emotions you have experienced as you have traveled this journey. While I can't say I know what you are going through or know how you feel, my heart does hurt for you and your loss. Your Gwendolyn and her story have touched so many lives including mine an will continue to do so. I will be praying for you and your precious family as time passes and you experience new milestones in life. May God bless you abundantly!

  17. This is just absolutely beautiful, and so is your sweet baby girl. Thank you for sharing this with me! I know our children are in a better place, but it doesn't hurt any less because we want them here so badly. You'll be in my prayers.

  18. Hi Erin,

    You don't know me, and only through this blog do I feel I know you.

    I don't know why I found your blog, or even how I found it. (I don't surf the internet much). I have a 6 month old son Liam. He is big like Gwendolyn too. 9lbs. 13 oz at birth.

    It has been years since the Holy Spirit has stirred my heart (or maybe I've ignored Him) but my heart stirs now. I know in the depths of my sould there is a greater reason in finding your blog. It may be as simpmle as having another family praying for your family. I don't know. I have no words of wisdom, I have no words of comfort. I'ts just one mother to another, one sister in Christ to another saying thank you for your blog. It has ignited a fire in my heart that has not been there for years. Or as I said above, maybe I didn't listen. Reading your blog, I felt the Holy Spirit come over me, and I've not been able to stop thinking about you, your husband, and sweet baby Gwendolyn.

    Please know that through your sweet baby girl's spirit you are bringing a family back to Christ. I feel the overwhelming need to pray, and praise God. Thank You for sharing your story.