Devon: “Please come home. I need sleep. Drew won’t sleep.”
Dan: “I’ll be right home.”
The lack of sleep in the weeks after a child is born is like no other. Unfortunately for my husband and me, that short conversation lead to a tragedy that has forever changed our lives.
On that Saturday night, my husband did what any loving father and husband would do when called upon. He rushed to my bedside as I had been trying to get our two and a half-week-old baby boy to sleep for what seemed like hours. Every time little Drew would drift off into a milk coma, I would set him in his bassinet that was literally connected to our bed. Two seconds later, he would stir. A few seconds later he would begin to fuss.
The only thing I could do to quiet him down was nurse him and hold him close. As soon as Dan entered our room that night, I handed Drew over. Dan closed our door and took him into our living room so that I could get some much needed rest. The next thing I remember is waking up to the most blood curdling scream I had ever heard. As soon as the scream registered in my brain, I knew exactly what had happened. My husband had fallen asleep with Drew and he was dead.
I grabbed my glasses from my nightstand and sprinted down our hall in hopes to prove myself wrong. My husband was leaning over our pale little baby boy, pleading with him to wake up. It was our worst nightmare, but we were very much awake. It was real and surreal at the same time.
The days and weeks after Drew’s death are so cloudy. I was anxious, frightened, and continually preoccupied. The questions were relentless: What could I have done differently? Was it my fault? What is going to happen to my marriage? How could I protect my living son? I felt like a zombie, lost in a world so unfamiliar. My worst nightmare had come true and was on repeat in my mind. The fear was overwhelming.
While I wasn’t asking God “why,” I was definitely living with some big fears and questions. I desperately needed someone to coach me through the next year. I wanted someone to tell me when it would be “okay” to start trying for another baby. I wanted to know how to explain the cemetery to our intuitive two year old. I wanted to know when the extreme feeling of pain would lighten.
In the midst of our darkest days, a friend shared a Bible verse that became my lifeline.
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not to abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11, MSG)
We chose to believe these truths and crawl forward knowing that God had our backs.
Eight weeks after Drew died, I discovered I was pregnant. My husband and I were scared that it was too soon, but we also knew no baby would EVER replace Drew. After a few puzzling questions from our ultrasound technician, we found ourselves in disbelief. We were expecting not one, but two babies! TWINS!
The pregnancy progressed very well. The babies were growing and healthy. On the day of my 36-week ultrasound appointment (almost full term with twins), I hoisted myself up on the table. The ultrasound tech asked about the upcoming 5k race that we were hosting in memory of Drew. As I answered her questions, I quickly noticed her eyes glued to the screen. It was at that moment, I felt my heart in my stomach.
I knew something wasn’t right. Within minutes, my doctor was in the dimly lit room delivering the news that “Baby B” had died.
I was speechless. During the entire pregnancy, we kept saying, “God has a plan.” But I just couldn’t understand how this plan made any sense. How could this be happening again?! Another funeral, another burial?
We were given the options of what would come next, induction or c-section. I wanted to deliver our healthy baby girl as soon as possible, so we opted for the c-section. In my state of mind, I had no idea how a natural labor would pan out.
Within twenty minutes, I was off to labor and delivery to be prepped for a surgery I didn’t intend to have.
Because surgery was so unfamiliar to me, I felt the anxiety rising in my body. Several friends had shared their c-section stories in the past and it seemed so easy and routine. But now it was my body they would be cutting open. It was my babies being pulled out.
My biggest fear was how I might react to seeing another lifeless infant. What would it be like hearing one baby announce her arrival while the other had no voice?
But instead of being flooded with anxiety throughout the birth, God gifted me with a sense of peace and bravery. I felt calm and all the worries that had been plaguing me minutes and hours before disappeared. It was a small miracle that meant so much to me. As they rolled me out of surgery, I noticed a room full of friends holding a prayer vigil for us.
Just after 7 p.m., our son Owen William joined his brother Drew in heaven and our daughter Reese Gabrielle arrived bright eyed and healthy.
Our family celebrates Drew and Owen almost every single day. They are both very much a part of our lives and will be until we see them again in heaven.
I have come to accept that comfort doesn’t mean the absence of grief. Grief is something we work through; it is a normal, healthy human expression. God doesn’t take it away. It comes in waves. God makes our grief bearable. While we see just our little corner of life, God sees the whole. And when we choose to surrender to God in our weakness, we don’t have to be strong.
Through our losses, God has given us many gifts and blessings. My kids have a very real understanding of Heaven and embrace it. We are able to give back to parents who have experienced stillbirth or early infant loss through our charity, Drew’s Faithful Feet.
While I never would have chosen this path on my own, but because of it, God has refined my family and carried us through our desert season.