The Start of a Typical Day
Nothing could have prepared me for the events of October 28th, 1992. I dropped my son off at the babysitter and headed to the high school where I taught English and Speech. What started as a typical day ended in one of my worst nightmares.
Earlier that day I had visited my OBGYN because of some light spotting while teaching school. As I lie in the hospital bed that night, my 20-week old daughter kicking and squirming within me, I grieved. “Better safe than sorry” were the nurse’s words on the phone. So, I called my husband and we headed to the doctor.
Little did I know that I was five centimeters dilated and the amniotic sac was bulging out of my cervix! My doctor explained that emergency surgery was required in hopes of gently nudging the birth sac back inside and sewing the cervix closed. If the surgery was unsuccessful, she would be born the next day and was not expected to live. As I was prepped for surgery, I could only find the presence of mind to repeat one prayer, “Please God, don’t take my baby”. This was my incessant prayer as I was wheeled into the surgical unit. My husband’s hand tightly gripped my own until they separated us.
Where Faith and Reality Meet
I had been a follower of Christ for about fifteen years. In previous years, I had even traveled full time on an evangelistic team as a singer and team evangelist. I believed in prayer and I also believed in the sovereignty of God. If my daughter lived, it was God’s will; his good plan. And we would rejoice and be thankful. If my daughter died, it was God’s will; His good plan. We would grieve our loss on this side of heaven and look for His good plan through many tears. My prayers were answered, but not as I had hoped.We would grieve our loss on this side of heaven and look for His good plan through many tears. #lossofachild #stillborn Click To Tweet
The surgery was unsuccessful. The birth sac had ruptured and our daughter would be born alive the next day; only to pass from this life shortly after. I gave birth to our precious Lacey Victoria in a quiet, dimly lit hospital room with my husband by my side. The grief that had begun the night before as I experienced her last movements inside of me, washed over me in great waves.
My faith was being tested. I believed that if God had wanted to, he could have saved my baby’s life. My only conclusion was one that I did not want to readily admit—God chose not to save her life. For reasons unexplained, He allowed her to be born and subsequently, die. This mystery would take years to unfold in my heart.
Facing the Grip of Grief
The hospital staff helped us put her footprints on a birth certificate, dress her, and place a tiny white knitted hat on her head. We asked for a minister to come and pray with us and we had a name blessing ceremony. We held her, wrapped in a receiving blanket, and we welcomed our family as they came.
My mother arrived along with our son, Danny. My husband’s parents came as well. Aunts and Uncles, brothers and sisters, we welcomed them all. It was comforting to see them, to let them see Lacey, to share our grief.
Two days later we were driving home; our precious babe in a fourteen-inch long casket set on the backseat of our car. We would deliver her ourselves to the funeral home (run by a dear friend’s parents) where she would await burial.
The days between her birth and her burial were quiet, somber, and sad. My arms physically ached to hold my baby. I felt broken, wounded, raw. I worried about placing my infant in a cold, hard plastic box into the ground. It felt so harsh.
Sewing in Love and Grief
My mom suggested we spend the next couple of days sewing a quilt in which to wrap her tiny casket. So we sewed and we talked and we cried for hours each day. We sewed our love and our grief into that quilt. It was therapeutic, to say the least. A few months later, my mom handed me an exact replica of that quilt as a memorial. I treasure it.
On November first, I stood beside an open grave clutching Lacey’s tiny casket to my chest trying to coax myself to hand it over to my husband so he could place it in the grave dug for her. She would be buried with my father who had passed just five years before.
It was a dark and dreary day with a biting, cold wind and the weather mimicked my emotions perfectly. The cold gripped my heart and refused to let go. Lacey Victoria was gone before we even had the chance to get to know her. My head told me she was now in heaven with Jesus. However, my heart ached with the knowledge that I would never have the privilege of raising this precious little girl.
There would be no little dresses and shoes, no curls to catch up in bright ribbons, no middle school crush, no high school prom, no engagement ring, no wedding, no grandchildren. I have heard it said that when an adult dies, you lose a piece of your past; but, when a child dies, you lose a piece of your future. This rang hauntingly true for me. The reality of this enormous loss weighed heavily on my heart.When an adult dies, you lose a piese of your past. When a child dies, you lose a piece of your future. #grievingtheloss #stillborn Click To Tweet
A Short Life Remembered
I entertained an irrational fear that she would be forgotten not only by others but by even ourselves. I feared we would never hear her beautiful name again because no one would remember it. This fear, however, became the catalyst for my desire to assure that she remains a part of our family. That her name and short life was remembered.
I believed her short life had a purpose. It was clear to me already that we, as a family, had been forever changed by the birth and death of our sweet Lacey Victoria. I chose to lean into my grief and learn from it all the lessons it had to teach me; about valuing life (no matter how brief); appreciating family and loved ones; learning how this loss would teach me to trust God more. Little did I realize I had so much to learn. And it would take me my entire life to learn it!
Grieving Through the Holidays
As the holidays approached, I dreaded them. Christmas, especially, is all about a baby. The stores seemed packed with mothers with babes in arms or in strollers. Let’s face it, a lot of our Christmas traditions center around children. All of this just seemed to accentuate my loss. My baby was not here to celebrate Christmas. However, I had been blessed a little over a year before with a precious son, Danny; and I was determined that his little sister would be a part of his life, his Christmas.
To that end, we labeled Christmas presents to and from Lacey that year (which we, of course, had purchased ourselves) to give to one another– special gifts that held meaning; a special teddy bear, a figurine of a mother and child, a father/daughter snow globe. Gifts that gave us the opportunity to include her, to say her name and remember her.
I also prepared, for grandparents and aunts and uncles, a Christmas ornament engraved with her beautiful name. I wrapped them beautifully and looked forward to presenting them; knowing I would hear her name once more and she would be remembered. That Christmas was bittersweet as we celebrated together. But, our hearts were warmed in the remembering. And I felt that cold hard grip of grief weakening ever so slightly.I felt that cold hard grip of grief weakening ever so slightly. #grievingthroughtheholidays #lossofachild Click To Tweet
A Long Year of Firsts
As with any great loss, it was a long year of firsts without our daughter. The grip of grief was difficult and as her birthday neared I desired to start a tradition that we could carry on through the years to assure our son would feel a connection to this sister that he would never know this side of heaven. Perpetuating her memory was a healing balm for my heart and I enjoyed creating new ways to remember her.
With that in mind, on her birthday, Danny and I made Funfetti cupcakes with bright pink frosting. As we baked I talked with him about his sister and how we love and miss her; that she lives in heaven now with Jesus and that we will see her again there. Once Dan returned home from work; we told him that we had cupcakes for Lacey and we needed to go to the cemetery.
So we took our cupcakes and drove to the cemetery where we placed one on her grave marker. We lit the candle, stood arm in arm and sang happy birthday to her. Tears fell and hugs shared. As we left the cemetery, I reminded Danny that Lacey would not eat the cupcake herself. But the bunnies and deer would come along and eat it for her to help celebrate her birthday. This picture always seemed to make him happy.
The rest of the day/week, we enjoyed Lacey’s cupcakes, thought about her and talked about her and repeated her beautiful name. A tradition we have carried on annually for 26 years.
The Grip of Grief Loosens
Our family has since grown to include a second daughter, Isabella, who is an answer to many years of prayer. Sometimes both of the children are not available to come to the cemetery on October 29th. But still, we go and we take a pink cupcake, light a candle, sing “Happy Birthday” and we remember.
Patti Smith along with Dan, Danny & Isabella
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