Early May of 2022, we found out we were expecting. We were excited to expand our family and for our 2 year old to become a big brother, and when we found out we were having a girl, our family just felt complete.
During my pregnancy with Ellinor Ruth (Ellie Rue), I stayed active and healthy. Everything with the pregnancy was normal and healthy. She was active and I felt her ‘flutters’ and movements around 16 weeks. Around September, we began a sermon series on Defiant Joy and experiencing joy among life’s chaos and pain. Our pastor, who is also our brother in law, was fighting leukemia at the time. We soaked in the sermons and the Word, but it did not fully extend to our reality. My husband, Matt, told our pastor (our Uncle B as we called him) that it is so easy to say we can have joy among pain and struggles when we aren’t walking through it and that he saw how B was emanating joy despite his cancer battle. Little did we know, that exactly one week later we would have to walk the path of grief and pain more than we could have ever expected.
The next week, I went to work, like normal. I was 26 weeks pregnant and looking forward to getting closer to our New Years Baby. On Tuesday, one of my co-workers asked if she could feel Ellie move. It was usually a time she was kicking so I said ‘yes.’ But she only shifted a little bit, not her normal movements. I brushed it off that I had been on my feet all morning and had just sat down. I was then relieved to feel her move later on that day. But that was when I started feeling a dread. Throughout the rest of the week, she was moving, but I felt a pit in my stomach that something was wrong. Oh, how hindsight is 20/20. I brushed it off and told myself, what do I do go downstairs (I worked at a Children’s and Women’s hospital at the time) and just tell them I feel off? I wish I would have; would it of made a difference, who knows. On Friday night, laying in bed, I told my husband “Ellie isn’t moving like she usually does.” We went to bed and I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head. The next morning, October 1, I woke up and told my husband “she’s not moving.” Matt asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said “yes.” We packed our son up and dropped him off at his Nanny’s house.
The entire drive to the hospital, I just knew she was gone. We sat in the waiting room of labor and delivery, at the hospital I worked at. Seeing faces smile, wave, and hug. I was doing my best to hold myself together. When I went back to triage, I completely lost it. The nurse placed the dopplar on my stomach. There was an immediate heartbeat. I sighed a huge sigh of relief and said “Thank you, Lord.” The nurse looked up at me and said “that’s your heartbeat.” Lets get you changed into a gown and do an ultrasound. They started the ultrasound before my husband was allowed back. I knew immediately they couldn’t find a heartbeat. Matt came back to the room and I just cried as I told them she was gone. Another doctor came in to confirm. Matt and I just held each other and cried.
We decided to start the induction process immediately vs going home and coming back. I was in labor for 36 hours and the entire time, I prayed for a miracle. Because if anyone could save our baby girl, God could. But I held on to the fact that even if He didn’t give us our miracle, He is still good. During labor, I felt those awful ‘phantom kicks’ and everytime it broke my heart. During the induction, I spiked a fever. I was over it and just wanted this nightmare to be over. My nurses were wonderful and let me cry and have my emotional outbursts without hesitation. On October 2, we got a new night nurse. She was a God-send. She had been in my shoes and lost her baby and knew our pain. She utilized every resource (peanut ball, positioning etc.) to progress my labor since it had been a while. My epidural started to go bad close to 10:45 that night. The anesthesiologist was tied up at the time and could not make it back to my room. At 11:00 PM, I delivered my perfect and precious Ellie Rue. She was beautiful. She looked like her big brother. She had 10 perfect fingers, and toes. Her button nose was identical to her daddy’s. She came into this world silent, but she was born into the arms of Jesus. The first thing her eyes saw was the face of Jesus, the only one who knew and loves her more than me. Now, don’t get me wrong, we were mad and upset. We verbalized our pain that nothing could be worth losing our daughter, but we also held onto the fact that God was in full control and we would see her again.
The next 24 hours were a fog. I held her and slept with her on my chest. An amazing hospital program, The Bridge, came in and painted her feet for footprints. Our nurses dressed her and took pictures. Precious co-workers of mine came in and held her, rocked her, and told her how beautiful she is. But none of it seemed real. Even now over a year later, it feels like a bad dream. The moment we had to leave was heart wrenching. I couldn’t imagine leaving the room, with her left behind so Meredith, one of the Bridge nurses and friend, took Ellie from our room in her bassinet for us. We came home that day and have never been the same.
Matt and I talked about how much God was preparing our heart for this. We fully know Ellie is absolutely healed and completely whole in heaven, but it doesn’t change the pain and loss we feel every single day without her. Knowing with our mind and heart that we will see her again gives us peace, but doesn’t change the absence of her presence brings us. We have held on to the fact that, amidst our pain, our grief, we are not alone. God has been with us the entire time. We may never know why He chose to bring Ellie home, but I hold on to the knowledge I will see my baby girl again.
After a few months, we sat down with our high-risk doctor. We had tests run and talked about Ellie. There is no medical explanation on why. Ellie’s heart just stopped.
We knew we wanted to try again, but didn’t know if we could go through the pain of losing again. But we moved forward.
In April of 2023, we got a positive test! Our rainbow baby. Our OB was on top of it and had me come in that same week. We started with blood tests. My numbers weren’t doubling like they should. I was fully expecting to have to say goodbye to this baby. At 6 weeks, my numbers were finally increasing more (not doubling, but increasing more). We had our first ultrasound and saw a sweet little heartbeat. I came in every week and we watched our baby grow with a strong heartbeat. We made it to the second trimester! But I know there’s no magic week that means we’re in the clear. Our visits continues and each visit brought on anxiety that comes with each appointment; praying and hoping for no bad news. We then found out we were having a boy, James Maverick!
At 17 weeks, I finally felt him move. We had another ultrasound and noted that I had an anterior placenta, making it more difficult to feel him move. We started with high risk visits as well to be closely monitored. We still had no answers as to why we lost Ellie, so even hearing how healthy and perfect James was didn’t bring closure or much peace after each visit, but I’m determined to hold onto the joy and love for him for however long we get to have him. I know it sounds morbid, but I’ve come to conclude that is life after loss. You hope for the happy ending, but seem to have a nagging expectation for the worst. We’ve made it to the third trimester and we are fully expecting a bundle of joy for Christmas.
While we anxiously and joyfully await the arrival of our rainbow, James, we still sit in grief in Ellie’s loss. We choose to find joy with our grief. Some days are harder than others, but we have found that peace, joy, pain, and grief can co-exist. One does not negate the other.
We absolutely love our baby boy, but there’s a pain in expecting his arrival as well. I read a post on instagram the other day that verbalized so well how we feel: “I thought about you, as I wrote your name. And then I thought about your new brother. The dichotomy of your two lives is overwhelming. He’s here, and you’re not. He’s here, because you’re not. If you were here, he wouldn’t be. And I am so conflicted by this.”
Photos taken by Karoline Johnson Photography.
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