Things were looking to be just about perfect.
I had just received a promotion in my business that I had been working toward for several years. The pay raise would allow me to quit my part-time job, and allow me to stay home full time with my 2-year-old daughter. Plus we had just gotten licensed to adopt from foster care. It was really happening! We were going to adopt!
And then . . . I took the test of a lifetime. And the two little lines that showed up brought me the deepest joy and love. (Not to mention a little uncertainty about what we were going to do with our newly acquired foster care license. But I figured we had time to get that all sorted.)
This pregnancy came as a little bit of a shock. Just like our first pregnancy did. (Yes, I do know what causes it.)
My first pregnancy was fraught with anxiety. Hormones raged with fear, and I struggled to bond to our precious baby-in-utero. I wasn’t ready to be a mom. Life felt crazy out of control.
My body felt crazy out of control. Not only did I have all the normal pregnancy stuff that comes with growing an alien inside your body — but I also had a hemorrhage, threatened miscarriage, threatened pre-term labor 3 times, preeclampsia and finally HELLP Syndrome.
My drug-free birth plan quickly turned into “C-Section now and we have a chance of saving you and baby. Or C-Section later, and we won’t have as good of a chance.”
Not much of a choice right?
C-Section now it was, and Maddy came out healthy, strong, and the biggest, most beautiful blessing of my life.
Besides a beautiful a baby who had reflux like no other, I walked out of that hospital with symptoms of PTSD, postpartum depression and a deep-seated fear of the future.
Would HELLP come again? Could I ever have another baby? How was I going to cope parenting this screaming child?
While that first year was rough, my husband and I figured things out. I eventually went to therapy to work through the PTSD, Ryan graduated from college allowing him to help more at home, and Maddy started reflux medicine that kept her screaming mostly at bay.
Before we knew it, we had settled into a comfortable life as a family of 3.
A few years passed, and the smell of sweet newborn baby head kept haunting me. I wanted another baby.
While we had worked through a lot, my husband hadn’t quite gotten over the fact that I could have been one of those horrible statistics we all pretend don’t exist. The “women died in childbirth” kind of statistic.
And so when God started prompting my heart to foster care and adoption, it only made sense that this was the next step for our family.
After filling out the ridiculous piles of paperwork, attending 60 hours of training, and going through multiple home inspections — we officially became foster parents.
And only 2 weeks later, we conceived again.
My pregnancy with Olivia was supposed to be everything I didn’t have with our daughter Maddy. I would hire the right doula, and eat crazy healthily, see a maternal fetal medicine specialist, and take every single necessary precaution to try to reduce my risk of HELLP.
But that was not God’s plan.
Our pregnancy did not last long enough to worry about healthy diets and MFMs and doulas. Our wanted child had implanted in my left fallopian tube. When she got too big, my tube ruptured, my baby died, and my husband was left scared for his wife’s life yet again.
No words could ever fully capture the hole left in your life when a baby dies. Even a baby who was just shy of 8 weeks in utero.
The experience of having almost lost my first daughter in utero has forever softened my heart to the unique person every pregnancy represents. Had I miscarried Maddy, or had she died with my HELLP, I’d never have known her infectious smile, the hug where she squeezes the words out of you, her silly voices and crazy big vocabulary. I would have missed out on all of it.
And now, I would miss out on all of this baby too. I will live out this lifetime without knowing my sweet daughter who is with Jesus.
I named our baby Olivia Joy. She was an olive branch, an extension of peace, mercy and grace in my life. And the very short time I had with her brought me more joy than I knew I could contain.
Following our loss, life just became hard.
I struggled to fill that void with another baby. I convinced my husband to continue letting us try to get pregnant, which resulted in 3 more miscarriages.
We were called to take in a newborn foster baby. But before we could pick her up from the hospital, our agency called. The social worker ended up choosing a different family.
Even while holding Maddy, my arms still felt so empty.
And then came Leyla. In a way that only God could orchestrate, we babysat for a tiny little 10-month-old foster baby. When her current foster parents let us know they wouldn’t be adopting, I immediately wanted to know if we could.
The answer, we found out, was YES.
The day after Leyla moved in, I looked through my blog to see where I was at in my grief process when Leyla was born. While I was thankful to have her, I wished that she had come straight to us, instead of to the other foster family first.
And what I discovered instantly dissolved me into tears. (The happy kind.)
You see, when we lost our daughter Olivia, my sister had sent us an tree to plant in her memory. Now I watered that acorn and took care of it like I was taking care of Olivia — but that dumb acorn wouldn’t grow.
3 months later, on March 3, that little acorn started to sprout. I snapped a photo and posted it on Facebook, and never gave the date a second thought.
Except when I was researching my blog.
You see Leyla’s birthday is March 3. The day my little acorn started to sprout was the EXACT day that my little girl was born.
God knew. He had seen my prayers, my weeping, my grief. He didn’t leave me nor promise me anything but Himself in the process. And yet, He blessed me with a second daughter — and did it in a way to make sure I would never forget that gift was from Him.
My prayer of surrender came far after I walked through fire. It came after God showed me that He had never left me, and He really could be trusted. Only after I understood WHO I was surrendering to, and understood WHAT I would need to fulfill me (and it wasn’t a baby), could I let go of it all to God.
Ever since, letting go has been a theme. Something God continues to call me to.
Months after we finalized Leyla’s adoption, we felt God calling us to take in another foster baby. And after almost a year of parenting and loving this kid as our own, we are now told that he will be leaving our home, and going back to his biological mom.
I don’t have the strength to let go. It is only God doing it for me, and upholding me through it.
And in the tear-stained words I penned just weeks after our loss of Olivia:
“Waving the white flag to God, to my body, to my circumstances has not been easy. And in the weeks since we lost Baby Olivia, I have found so many times where God is calling me to let go . . . to stop holding on so tight with white knuckles, and just trust Him.
I’m learning to let go of my ideas of success and embrace that I can only do what I can do, and no more.
I’m learning to let go of my pride . . . that there are days where I will not have something amazing or productive to show for my time, and that it’s OK.
I’m learning to let go of my need to be in control . . . because, if losing a baby has taught me anything, it’s that while I sometimes have the facade of control, it’s usually just that. A facade.
And gently, tenderly, He is STILL calling me to let go of my baby. To trust in Him. And surrender to His will, even though I don’t understand.
Perhaps, as I move through this life with hands a little more open, I will find that I am no longer just letting go. I’m also opening up my life to the blessings and purpose He has for me. And that is a hope I’m holding on tight to. A promise I will never let go of. “