Words of Lament: How 3 Of Our Children Died In 3 Days

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On July 15th of this year, my wife Whitney was urgently rushed to a hospital in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, she was 20 weeks pregnant with triplets. Doctors informed us that her cervix had opened, that there was a bulging sac and that the babies were going to be delivered far too premature that evening. 

I stayed the night at the hospital with Whit and no babies were delivered. We call that an answered prayer. 

The next morning I read through Proverbs chapter 16 where the first line says, 

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. 

Our plans, our dreams, as a married couple, was to have my wife become pregnant, experience pregnancy and give birth. It had been a desire on her heart for most of her life. 

Unable to conceive naturally, years into our marriage we have pursued in-vitro fertilization via embryo adoption four times. 

Attempt #1: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #2: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #3: Conception (miscarriage at 9 weeks)

Attempt #4: Conception (pregnant with 3 fetuses)

With each attempt there are mountains of paperwork, finances, medication, injections and prayer. But the dream we had to expand our family and love on another child was all worth it without a question. 

This past April was when we found out Whit was pregnant with triplets, and we were ecstatic. Not only was there hope of a baby coming, but it was threefold. The magnanimity overshadowing this attempt was that we were told this would be the last chance at pregnancy after three previous unsuccessful ones. 

Sure there was a pandemic starting, and school was canceled, and our family was moving out of state, but we couldn’t stop praising God for an answered prayer as Whit’s pregnancy prolonged through the first trimester with three healthy babies. 

When she was 19 weeks pregnant, we announced the exciting news to social media. Five days later she was a high risk patient in the hospital with doctors telling us the babies were coming too early and there wasn’t much they could do. 

Five days after that, her water broke. The doctors told us the babies were going to be born any minute, yet for the next 12 days no babies were born. We call that an answered prayer. 

On July 31, at 1:39AM, 16 days after Whit was first put on bed rest in the hospital, a child was delivered. A baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 2 days. She came out still born and we were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

The concern at that point was that Whit would get infected. If she showed signs of fever or a high white blood cell count, the other two babies would have to be induced because at that point the situation would be life-threatening to Whit. Her health was primary to us. 

Later on July 31st, her fever spiked to 102.9° and she started having chills. At that point it was a no brainer, Whit was given medication to give birth to the other two babies. 

On August 1st, the other two babies were delivered. At 4:20pm another baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 3 days. She came out and gave one exhale and eventually within minutes had no heart rate. We were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

11 minutes later a son was born. He had a heart rate and had low oxygen levels but came alive out of the womb. He was rushed to the NICU immediately. His weight was just under 1 pound. 

Over the first hours of his life he was put on a ventilator, and then another ventilator and a third ventilator. He was given two blood transfusions, given sugar, caffeine, hydrochloride, saline and multiple doses of dopamine. 

He was considered by the nurse first in charge of his care to be a fighter and ended up fighting for 17 hours, dying at 9:40AM, August 2nd. The last moments of his life Whit and I were able to hold our son and cry and thank God for him in our lives. 

Sometimes God blesses parents to love their kids for a lifetime, sometimes for a day.

Three babies, all three dead on three different days due to being too early in birth. During our time in the hospital, we were constantly educated that if the babies could make it in the womb until 23-25 weeks, there was a good chance at their survival. That was our prayer, and our three children almost made it to that goal.   

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. (Proverbs 16:1)

Hadassah Lynne, born and dead July 31. Her name means: One who brings joy, of the church. 

Beatrix Tyler, born and dead August 1. Her name means: One who brings happiness, home builder. 

Samuel Dominic, born August 1, dead August 2. His name means: The Lord heard, of the Lord. 

The most amazing moment happened on Samuel’s first and only night on this earth. While in the incubator, his heart rate was dramatically dropping around 11:30pm. The doctors were doing everything they could but things looked grim. They asked me to go get Whit since she hadn’t seen or met him yet. 

When Whit got to the NICU, she asked if she could touch Samuel. With her two hands around his tiny head and chest, over the course of an hour, his heart rate, blood oxygen level and pulse all went up to the best they ever would be during his 17 hours of life. The doctors were amazed. We call that an answered prayer. 

There is a lot of confusion, loss and sadness right now, but rather than focus on those things at this time, let me give you the other answered prayers we were able to experience: 

  • Our dream was for Whit to get pregnant, to experience pregnancy, to go into labor and all of those things occurred. 
  • Being in love with having daughters, I had prayed for a son to see what that was like. Out of the three babies who died, our son survived birth as we were able to know him and hold him.
  • Each day Whit was on bedrest, with each healthy ultrasound given, the doctors kept telling us that something beyond science was happening. Again, they said on July 15th the babies were coming and to see Whit be prayed for and to watch her fight for the chance at life was beyond anything they had seen. We like it when faith and science work together and medical professionals noticed. 
  • My wife and I have been a praying couple in our marriage, but at no other time in our relationship had we prayed together, cried out to God together more than these past few weeks. It’s an intimate thing to pray with your spouse. We were able to tangibly feel God’s care for us by doing so. 
  • Our church stepped up to love on us practically during the 18 days of bedrest. They made meals for our family, mowed our yard, took care of our kids, sent flowers, gave gifts and kept checking in letting us know we were prayed for. 
  • Our witness for Christ was known throughout the entire hospital by nurses, doctors and administrative workers. With all of the sorrow, tears and loss, the hugs given to us came with comments like “We have never seen a couple with more resolve, faith and gratitude than you two.” Every new nurse that came in to care for Whit, they had already known about Whit’s joyous and kind spirit even while going through the scariest trial of her life. My faith in God grew and my love for her increased just by watching her character in hardship.  

During Whit’s time in the hospital, she would write in her gratitude journal, listing things she was grateful for to God rather than worrying about the future in the worst way. She would write thank you cards to express her gratitude to others while they were serving us in this time. She would read her Bible, listen to worship songs, read a book about anxiety, write encouraging notes for our two older daughters and always would uplift the spirit of the nurses and doctors checking on her. 

To see her be bedridden enduring all the IV’s and blood tests and morphine and pain and the bed pans and the lack of showering and the inability to sleep a full night and the concerns of a dream dying, to know the pressure she felt even though none of what occurred was anything she did or didn’t do, to know this was her last attempt at IVF, with all that going on, those able to witness her faith in God completely floored them. 

I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. (Philippians 1:12)

Since Hadassah’s death, I have been walking a little slower. 

Walking around the hospital God brought to mind a memory of my father that expressed the emotions I was having. 

When I was in the 6th grade, my father, a pastor, came into my bedroom the week before Christmas. He was wearing a suit and tie and he asked me to get dressed up. It was 10AM and I argued with him stating I wanted to stay home in my scrub clothes and watch TV. He kept asking me to get dressed. I finally gave in as I came downstairs in wrinkled khakis and a sweater. We got into his Chevy Blazer and drove off. 

My dad didn’t tell me where we were going even though I kept asking. 30 minutes later we pulled into a hospital. My dad grabbed his Bible from the back seat, and he and I walked into the cancer wing of a Cincinnati hospital. 

Over the next hour I witnessed my father officiate a wedding inside a hospital room. The patient, a dad with cancer, had the dream of walking his daughter down the aisle. His daughter was engaged to be married in six months, in June. Plans changed when the father had been told earlier that week that he only had days to live. 

So this dad could see his daughter be married and get to be a part of one of the biggest, joy-filled days of her life, my father showed up to the hospital room in December to officiate, as tears mixed with sadness by all were falling in the room. 

Had I remained lazy and whiney at home earlier that day, I would’ve not of only missed out on the emotion I felt that day, but also what my dad said when we got back into the car. 

My dad said, with tears in his eyes, “Z……I hate death……..but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

Twenty years later, on his own deathbed due to cancer, after he had walked his daughter down the aisle just two months before, I said to my father, “Dad, I hate death, but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

And with the death of three children in three days, it’s the exact sentiment I have. 

I hate death. I hate it. 

As people are unsure how to respond to our pain currently, we have heard that this is part of God’s plan. Our 8 year old, after initially hearing her siblings are dead, cried out to us, “How could something this horrible be part of God’s plan? I thought God is loving?”  

He is loving, but I had no words for her in the moment. Yes, it could be viewed as God’s plan for our family, a purpose we may never visually realize going forward, but there is also an evil side to this. There is an unseen but not unfelt wicked presence in our world. The devil’s only obsession each and every day is to hurt God by hurting us. 

I don’t understand how people go through the brokenness in this world without Jesus. How do people do it without His love and without a longing for heaven, a place where there is no pain or sadness?

Yes, I hate death. But still, I love people and I love Jesus so much. 

Thanks for reading and I thank you for prayers for my wife and myself as we move forward in grief and gratitude. 

Z

Helping a Loved One Grieve Through Their Miscarriage

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A miscarriage can be defined as the ending of a pregnancy, spontaneously, within 20 weeks after conception.  

Miscarriage is a topic hardly ever discussed. 

The March of Dimes Foundation reports that 10-15% of pregnancies conclude in a miscarriage. If the woman carrying is over 35 years old, the rate of a miscarriage is 25%. 

Chances are, there are women you know well, women you work with, women you live by, who have miscarried and have kept that emotional weight internally because they just don’t know how to talk about it.

Experiencing a miscarriage is an event that brings a deep level of confusion and sadness. With bewilderment and grief, most people keep the loss a secret. It’s taboo to discuss with even the closest people we know. 

My wife had never been pregnant before in our 13+ years of marriage and it’s been her dream, our dream, for her to conceive and experience a full-term pregnancy. 

Unable to become naturally pregnant or try in vitro fertilization, we were thankful for scientific advances that enabled us to pursue embryonic adoption, having frozen embryos placed in the uterus. 

Fittingly so, my wife and I received medical affirmation that she was with child for the first time while we were on vacation at Disney World, the most magical place on earth.   

10 weeks after conception, she miscarried. 

To add salt to the wound, the miscarriage occurred on August 22nd, which is referred to by parents as “Rainbow Day”. Rainbow day is a national day to reflect on the babies born after there has been a miscarriage, a still birth or the death of a child. It’s a day of hope for parents to look back on and see that the miscarriage wasn’t the ending, but that life came afterwards later on. 

This miscarriage was a first for her, a first for me. The shock and the loss for words and the ongoing demands of life that propelled us to move on without being able to move on was all fresh and awkward. 

As a husband who was in pain, but not close to the pain my wife’s body, mind and heart was going through, I offer this wisdom and these practical ways to help anyone you love who is going through the same ordeal, to heal. 

Don’t analyze or counsel right away.

After my wife and I were married for five years, we found out we were infertile. Immediately after that news from the doctor, I began the paperwork toward infant-adoption as a way to start our family. 

I did not allow my wife to grieve the dream she had most of her life to become naturally pregnant. Yes, the option of adoption was a good one, but to shift over quickly to it without giving space to process the purging of her dream was not wise. 

There is something innate in us that wants to solve our loved ones problems. We think fixing is helping. But offering solutions too quickly after painful news does not allow the person to express their emotions, work through their grief in time, and even feel validated for their anguish. 

When a wife comes to a husband with her pain or guilt or fear over anything, the husband is just supposed to listen. Just listen, and not solve. The wife just wants to be heard, and husbands, or any friend with the woman, can work on that. 

Pamper her so she has space to grieve. 

When a miscarriage occurs, life does not stop to wait until the woman is ready to move on. Life moves on. Work, chores, a family’s schedule, worship, errands – they do not wait for anyone. 

A couple weeks after the miscarriage, I called a fancy hotel suite, booked a room, packed a bag for my wife and when she got home from work, sent her off to her hotel for an evening to herself. 

She relaxed in a jacuzzi in her room, ordered room service for dinner, with extra desserts and watched shows she never gets to watch due to the demands of our family.

And she cried and cried.
The time to herself allowed her to release tears. 

The next morning I scheduled a massage for her to help with how tense she had been. 

Pampering her did not heal everything in her heart, but it did give her space to stop, pause and grieve. 

Encourage her to share the miscarriage with a female friend. 

Writer Kendra Hurley for The New York Times reports that 40% of women who experience a miscarriage say that afterwards, for months, they felt very alone. 

There is a false sense of guilt that can rise up in a woman when she miscarries. All of us want to figure out why things happen the way they do, but miscarriages are so confusing and mostly unexplainable, and with the physical and emotional toll that comes with it, it can bring unnecessary, harmful shame. 

It is so difficult to have friendships that break through below the surface. Very few people have friendships they’re not related to where they can go to someone and share devastation. 

The way a friendship deepens is when one friend decides bravely to share their brokenness and the receiving friend listens, grieves with them, hugs them and checks in on them. 

Gently, just a couple times, I encouraged my wife to reach out to a friend she trusted to share the miscarriage news. She did, soon after, reach out to a close friend.

Talking about it made it real, which made it something to heal from, which deepened the friendship she already had. I am very thankful to that friend of ours who took time to simply being a friend. 

Schedule a photographer for family photos.

One of the damaging things pain can elicit is tunnel vision. Through devastating news we become so fixated on the trial that it’s all we look at, think about, dwell on. We become obsessed with it and it begins to own us.

While miscarriage pain should be acknowledged, it will only lead to more isolation and depressive moods if it’s only acknowledged. 

Meaning, there is so much to be thankful for. 

My wife and I have been infertile our entire relationship. But, through God’s hand of providence, and through the sacrificial generosity of two birth-mothers, we have two daughters we adopted from birth. We have an amazing family. Only the Lord could have knitted us all together in the way and timing He has. 

To remind my wife of that, we scheduled family photos outside on a beautiful day. We got our beautiful girls dressed up in multiple outfits and had our picture taken by a professional photographer over the course of a couple hours. 

Having those pictures printed and looked at, it brought smiles to our faces how adorably amazing our lives are. The miscarriage was a signifiant event, but it was not the only thing going on in our lives. 

If there are no children in the family where miscarriage occurs, family photos as a couple, or with a pet can also be therapeutic. 

If not a photos option, there are other creative ways to redirect the thoughts of someone who has lost a pregnancy to thoughts of gratitude. 

Pray for God to strengthen her increasingly.

A miscarriage is an event that never fully heals. It leaves a permanent scar. The high level of excitement that comes with news of being pregnant combined with the devastation of news that the pregnancy is no more is something that is unforgettable. 

But, she can be strengthened. By God. 

As Christians, people who love Jesus, my wife and I firmly believe that God works all things out  for our good. When we love God, we aren’t handed an easy life, but through suffering and heartache God promises good to come out of it. 

Our response is to wait and trust Him. 

When our daughters are afraid at night from something, or they’re in pain, my wife and I will sing this song to them while holding them closely: 

When I am afraid, I will trust in You,
I will trust in You,
I will trust in You.
When I am afraid I will trust in You,
And all my fears will wash away.  

Weeks after the miscarriage, I wrote in magic marker on our master bathroom mirror Psalm 56:3-4, which says, 

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

The healing power of God’s Spirit can begin to patch together the heart that’s been broken by a miscarriage and, simultaneously, infuse hope for dreams to remain alive and good to come out of what is broken. Pray for her. 

Thank for reading. You are loved (and, if there is love and trust in your relationships, reach out to a loved one to see if they’ve ever experienced a miscarriage and if they’d like to talk about it). 

Z