Naming the daughter we never met; and how she is changing us

Originally published Thursday, 10 April 2014.

This is a bit more personal of a post that would normally stay on my blog, but I wanted to share it here with you because I know we aren't alone and that many of you have experienced the same loss. Our God is good and His faithfulness never fails!

Today marks four weeks since we began to grieve this loss. Not knowing a gender, our conversations have simply referred to her as “our sweet October baby.” When given the option to run genetic tests that might determine what caused her heart to stop, we gave our consent without hesitation. Grief and coping look different on each person. For BJ and me, the more we are able to know, the better we can process. And let go. The doctor couldn’t promise they would be able to get us answers, but we just wanted them to try. Leaving the hospital, BJ held my hand in the car and we prayed that by God’s grace and provision, their findings might give us some clarity…something a bit firmer to wrap our fingers around.

I went in to see my midwife yesterday and as we discussed my fears about getting pregnant again, she offered to look up the results…to see if they found anything. The report did hold answers – as painful as it was to hear.

Our baby was a girl.

Her system just hadn’t developed quite right and she was missing an X chromosome (Turner’s Syndrome). It was nothing we did. My body had no role to play in the outcome. It was simply a gap in the connections early on. Completely out of our hands.

The knowledge brought new waves of grief and anger, but it also brought some sense of relief. I am all at once hardened and softened by her existence and death. One of my best friends reminded me last night that God is not overwhelmed by my anger, a truth I am grateful for. I am grateful that He meets me where I am, as difficult as that place might be.

My midwife is a beautiful, compassionate woman. She put her arms around me and let my cry. When I was ready to leave, I stepped out into the hall and was met by one of the other midwives on her way to an exam room. She hugged me and I cried again. We talked for several minutes and she let me grieve….completely undeterred by her packed schedule, my awkward sobs, my squirming children in the stroller, or the woman waiting for her at the end of the hall.

Lily Anne Joyner – that’s her name. Lily comes from the name Lilian, which represents purity and innocence…the perfect description of one who will never know anything but love. Love in the womb of her mother, love from the prayers and belly kisses of her father, and now love in the arms of her Creator.

We have some family plans for how we will remember her. A box to hold pictures, cards, hospital bands and letters from BJ and me. Maybe we can even get my oldest to throw in a drawing. And by throw, I literally mean throw. If you know my son, you know what I’m talking about. And for the rest of my years, a necklace will hang from my neck with an October birthstone – a daily marker of our precious girl who went before us.

We are changed by her life. Our culture sends some mixed messages about life before birth. Miscarriage is grieved yet abortion is condoned. There is a lot to say here, and she has taught me that I need to start saying it. But for today, all I’ll say is this. She was alive. Her heart was beating and her body moving. And when we had to sign a legal document at the hospital giving our permission for what should be done with her remains, we didn’t sign a line that said “patient”. We both signed a line that said “parent.” This was our living child whom we lost. And we will remember and honor her as such.

She is changing the way I see myself as a mother, redefining how I view my purpose in bringing about life, even if I don’t get to see that life on the outside. She’s making me ask questions about God’s design, His plans and His kingdom beyond what my eyes behold. I don’t know exactly where I come out with those questions. I believe that the world is broken and hurting, full of pain and death. I believe that God is love and compassion and justice. And I believe that He hurts with us. I don’t believe that it was His purpose that she die, rather that losing her is a painful effect of life in a broken world. I believe that He is in control - and that whatever happens with such a tiny soul beyond this world is good, because He is good.

As heartbroken as I am to not see her face, I am so grateful to know that I am her mother. I am grateful for the knowledge that my body conceived and grew her. And I am grateful for the ways her life is changing me.