It requires a photo and so I went looking through Rachel's birthday photos to pick one. I had the thought that perhaps I didn't have the energy for what this could potentially take out of me emotionally, but I kept going. About 5 photos in, I was in tears. I shouldn't be surprised, but somehow it still feels like a rude awakening that I can't just look through my child's birth photos and not be sad. And yet what I saw in those photos tonight was....
I was smiling.
Everyone around me was looking at me intently.
You can tell by the people around me that it's not an every day kind of birth. And yet, by looking at me, you can't tell. And knowing what I know now, as I look at those photos I feel like I'm looking at someone else... someone who I feel is so unaware of what was about to happen. I see a strength I didn't feel, but couldn't fake and I wish I could go back to that moment. I see my belly and I know she was in there alive... with me...dancing... and I didn't know what I have come to know. I didn't know that my darkest fear of what imagined this journey to be would be nothing compared to how hard it has actually been.
Matt heard me crying and came in to check on me. "That's God" I said through my tears as I looked at a photo of me smiling. "There's no other way to explain it."
|Less than an hour before Rachel was born - her blanket on my lap.|
He didn't even ask what I meant, it's obvious. We both know I was scared to death. We both knew that our baby would die in a matter of hours or days.... or minutes.
I continued to scroll through the photos and the scene went from preparing for her birth to after we were brought back to the room. The photos from the Operating Room are out of sequence because they were taken on my camera so all I saw was the before and after... and I was still smiling, but you could also see the pain behind my furrowed brows. One of the first photos was a direct shot of the top of her head.
I just don't remember it like it was. I stared at the photo, trying to just pick out the good... "She had SO much hair... I bet it would have been like Desirae's" I said... "Yeah" Matt responded.
I felt my head start to shake in disbelief.... and the tears just took over.
Over 3 years later I still cannot believe that my baby really had such a defect. I forgot how much she bled. I forgot how blue she became, even before anyone else - including our children - even got to see her. And I can't believe I lived through seeing my baby like that. I thought about what it was like for everyone who was waiting to walk into that room and I hate that the word "shocked" comes to mind as a possible reaction to her appearance. I hate that "disappointed" could be how they felt. I hate that they probably all had a hard night when they left.
I just want her to be thought of as beautiful.
As I was giving her a sponge bath and looking at all her little features, I remember the photographer telling me I should move things along and bring the kids in for photos because the effects of time on her would make it harder to get good ones. I just couldn't see what they could see.
I was truly blinded by love and covered by His grace.
I am not sure how I could have made it through that any other way.
As I sat here staring at her bloody brain stem on my computer screen... heart racing, body shaking, tears pouring down like rain.... feeling like I had just opened up a wound I thought was no longer so deep; the tender scar being jaggedly ripped open... the radio played in the background and these words filled my air....
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in Me thine all in all
And I felt my ache lift as both Matt & I began to sing, my voice still trembling with my heart....
All to him I owe
Sin has left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow...
'Jesus died my soul to save' my lips shall still repeat
I look at her head and I know that it's a result of the sin in this world and it makes me hate sin more than I have ever hated anything before. But it also makes me love Jesus more than I've ever loved anyone before. Because without him, I'd have nothing more than a baby who was born to die... I'd have a birth defect and empty arms with no hope.
But with him and because of what He did for me and for Rachel on the cross... because HE was born to die... this gut-wrenching, breath stopping, paralyzing pain in my heart that feels like a ton of bricks on my chest... it's just temporary. And while I wait for relief... she already has it. She is already complete. She has been cleansed white as snow...
And I hear my Savior say, thy strength indeed is small... but child of weakness, watch and pray - and you'll find in Me your all in all.
So even while I cry - and I've been crying for 3 hours now... I pray. I wait. I look to Him. I look through what took her from me - her weaknesses - and I see Who will bring me back to her for eternity. I recognize my weakness and I rest in His strength. He is my all in all.
And I rejoice that even if it hurts, she was my good and perfect gift from above. The closest thing to Jesus I've ever held in my arms. An irreplaceable, precious, perfect gift who has changed my world forever. No matter what that means I have to endure or how complicated my heart is now... I thank Him for her. And I thank Him for the cross. I thank Him for making me so weak that I need Him like I do. Because if I was strong without him... well, it would be an illusion.