There's a strange war raging today. The greatest moment of my life shares the title of the worst moment of my life, and I pound like a gong violently between the two extremes.
My baby girl Luca Gold “Goldie” Gifford entered the world yesterday at 11 am, and was taken from my world 40 minutes later. She is gone from my arms. And there is no greater pain that a mother can know.
One minute, I'm in awe at the number of miracles climbing like mountains around us in the dark valley of these moments, evident over the last 9 months of her creation inside of me. And the next minute, I'm wailing from the chasm that lies empty inside my heart and my womb.
But strangely enough and completely unexpectedly, within the greatest pain lies the greatest comfort. And the Comforter is closer than ever, wrapped like a gift within the closest grief I've ever known.
The night before I went into labor, I knew we weren't supposed to go home. Moses, Lucas and I had finished dinner at my parents house, and even though my due date was still weeks away, I just had a hunch we needed to stay close to family that night. As labor pains began mildly and very inconsistently at 4:30 am, I still wasn't sure if this was false labor and didn't even get out of bed for a couple of hours. But at 9 am as contractions became more extreme and closer together, I knew—this was the day I was going to meet my baby girl.
Studhubs raced out of the house, heading off to buy diapers we hadn't bought yet, back to our house to get clothes and items we knew we'd need but hadn't been prepared for. We had a hunch she was coming early, but we hadn't expected on her coming 2.5 weeks early. Mom and Dad raced around the house, excitedly getting ready for my home birth, and I texted the midwife letting her know I was in labor and this truly was the real deal. A friend came by to get Moses, the birthing tub was being aired up and filled in the living room, and as I sat on the edge of the bed readying myself for the next contraction, I felt a drop like a bowling ball into my pelvis.
Waddling in between contractions, I raced to the toilet, knowing my water could break any minute. Within two contractions, I felt the pop and water rushed forth in preparation for life.
Still no midwife. Still no birthing tub.
I texted Lucas….”My water broke!” It was 10:40 am and I was sitting alone in the dark, back on a guest bathroom toilet. I could hear the bustle in the living room as family scurried around, trying to get everything ready, knowing she was coming soon. Within a few contractions, I could feel the shift. I screamed out, “Babe, she's coming!” and as the words came out of my mouth, so did she. I stood up just in time to catch her little body as Lucas raced around the corner, sliding across the floor to catch her as well, with the midwife on his heels.
The second we pulled her little body up, we knew.
Luca wasn't going to make it.
Our beautiful baby girl had a rare disease called Anencephaly where the top of her skull, parts of her brain, and her scalp didn't fully form. There are a few hunches as to why it happens, but only 1 in almost 5,000 babies are born with it, and it apparently occurs within the first month or so of pregnancy.
As I pulled her close to me, both Lucas and I began to weep, not knowing if our beautiful daughter was even alive. The midwife ushered us into the bedroom where I laid down and cradled her close, our tears falling on her soft little skin. She didn't look as if she was breathing and wasn't showing any signs of life, but as the midwife put the stethoscope up to her little chest, she exclaimed, “She has a heartbeat!” We looked at each other and cried even harder, holding on to her like we were holding onto life itself.
I will never forget the 40 minutes we shared with our daughter as her heart fought to beat on this earth. What a little fighter she was, longing to be with her family as long as her little body would allow. We curled her delicate fingers around ours, kissed her sweet soft skin, prayed, embraced, and cried. We dressed her in something pretty and soft, wrapped her in beautiful blankets, took picture after picture longing to never forget. Every moment stabbed with excruciating pain, while the ecstasy of joy filled our nostrils like a beautiful fragrance and clung to our hearts like bursts of hope.
Life and death came to us yesterday, wrapped together in a beautiful package so intricately intertwined, we simply weren't able to tear them apart.
As her little body left my arms for the last time yesterday, driving off in the little wicker basket with the funeral director, I began to wail as if my heart had been torn from my chest. She's all alone I screamed inside. My baby girl is all alone! Then, like a lightening bolt from the sky, an almost audible voice shook my spirit to the core.
“I'm not alone, Mommy! I'm not alone!”
I looked up into the sky and as clearly as I could see the sun, I saw my little girl, embraced and smiling in the arms of Jesus, whole and healed….ALIVE.
And every time my hands long to touch her little face….
Every time my heart weeps at the loss…..
Every moment I feel like I might explode from grief….
Or when my exhausted body aches to pull her close, I'll always remember her words of truth.
“I'm not alone, Mommy! I'm not alone!”