I'm telling you now this will be a long post. So if you want to go grab a cup of coffee for the read, go ahead.
In February 2011, when Eva was an apparently healthy 4 month old, Mike and I decided that we were permanently done with having children. We thought we knew best and that the future held 3 handsome sons, 1 beautiful daughter and might possibly include Mike's niece as another precious daughter, through adoption.
In June 2011 our beautiful Eva got very sick, very fast and we seemed to lose both girls at once. Eva to the PICU and little J back to foster care. Death was on our doorstep throughout the summer of 2011. I never felt certain that my girl was going to be ok. In August it seemed that Death had retreated and was no longer knocking on our door.
We came home and rejoiced in our beautiful, breathing daughter. And what a blessing she is. Death, however, was no longer knocking at our door. We thought he had retreated to the world of 'other people'. Instead Death came into our house and made himself at home. He settled in for the long haul and on August 15th 2011 he took our precious daughter from us.
On August 15th 2011 our little girl's heart beat normally for the last time at 8:30pm, in the bathtub as she smiled at her daddy. Her official time of death is 9:15 but her last true heartbeat before her heart ruptured was at 8:30pm, in her daddy's hands.
When Eva's heart stopped beating my world crumbled and I felt so completely hopeless. I wanted something to hope for. I wanted another baby. Nobody could ever replace Eva. Nobody. But babyhood seemed to have been snatched out of my arms so suddenly and violently that I was sent reeling. I was still nursing Eva when she died and the next weeks were also painful as I worked to stop the flow of the milk that I had spent so long trying to keep flowing throughout Eva's stay in the PICU. I had been looking forward to growing out of babyhood. Looked forward to selling the exersaucer and other big 'baby items' at a garage sale. But, oh, when babyhood was snatched from my arms, I longed to hold Hope. Longed to feel the weight of a baby in my arms. I couldn't hold anyone else's baby without crying desperately. Looked with envious eyes at other baby girls and held close the clothes of my dead daughter.
When Eva went to Heaven I suddenly understood so much more clearly the sanctity, value and eternity of Life. Eva was dead. I could no longer hold her physically, although I longed to do it more than anything in the world. But, Eva was still my daughter. She would always be my daughter and that would never, ever change. She is there in Heaven. She is still my daughter. Only she is in Heaven. Her being in Heaven and me being here on earth doesn't change the fact that she is my daughter. Always and forever, she is my daughter. And I long for the day that I will hold her close to me again.
For months I couldn't reconcile in my mind the fact that we had a daughter whose name meant 'Breath of Life' who died so young. How was this possible? And I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted a little Hope in my belly when everything seemed so hopeless around me. And we couldn't. And we never could again. All because of a permanent decision that we made back in February 2011. Back when we thought we could see the future and all the good things it held for us.
And then, in January 2012, we changed the course of our lives once again. We reversed a permanent decision. And I hoped and prayed for another heartbeat in our lives. And I thought the meaning of Eva's name would be fulfilled in siblings that would never have had life had our little 'Breath of Life' never lived and died. Had her heart never stopped beating. And the weeks passed, and the months passed and every month was hopeless once again. Almost more so because we had the possibility of Hope. And as the months passed, it seemed that God had taken everything from us.
We used to take our fertility so for granted that we thought we would just cut it off and throw it in the garbage. How stupid. If there was one thing I regretted it was that permanent decision we made back in February 2011. We did our absolute best with Eva. We advocated for her. We prayed for her. We fought for her. We loved her. We held her. We slept with her. I pumped milk for hours and hours and hours in the PICU for her. But our fertility, and the hope of life for any other children. That, we threw in the garbage, like so much detritus. The lives of our future children were of no value to us.
And Eva changed our hearts. Sweet little Eva with her sparkling eyes and glowing smile. She changed our hearts and they will never beat the same again. How terribly sad that Eva died. And I will forever mourn the loss of my beautiful, sparkly baby. But, oh , how much sadder the loss of the children that we couldn't have because we put no value on their lives. And I grieved for those children too, and the loss of Hope.
And then one fine day in July 2012 Eva's name was fulfilled and, all of a sudden, there was a little Hope in my belly. The third week of July was strange for me, as I absorbed the fact that maybe, just maybe, there would be another heartbeat in our family. Could it really be? Was it true? And my heart beat a little faster as I thought about it.
And then I woke up in August and my heart wrenched and I missed Eva afresh with every breath I took and having Hope took me off one rollercoaster and put me on another. And then my best friend lost her baby, Caleb, at 14 weeks gestation. And I grieved for him. I knew how my friend was hurting and I ate Tear Soup with her as she had eaten of my batch of Tear Soup last August. And then my mom had chest pains and I was certain she was going to die, because that is what I expect of August. And then another friend lost her sweet son, Uriah, at 20 weeks. And then a mama I met at a garage sale told me of her Sweet Baby Kane that she lost in June at 18.5 weeks. And then Mike's aunt died. And then I learned of another loss of a baby in our church at 10 weeks. And then another loss from someone else at 8 weeks. This last baby had a very close EDD to our little Hope. All this in the terrible month of August, when I am reliving the weather and the moments of Eva's last days with us and then the terrible, terribleness of the early black hole of pain and grief over losing my sweet daughter.
And I thought, it seems so hopeless. We will never have another living baby in our family. And then I went to have an ultrasound and I saw that little flickering heartbeat at 169bpm on the screen and I thought that, whatever happens, Eva's name has been fulfilled. There is New Life because Eva lived and died. There is Hope. And each Life is a miracle and a blessing and fully deserving to be celebrated and we want to celebrate the Life and the heartbeat of our little Hope. Because there are no guarantees and we don't know what the future holds. And so we celebrate the Hope that we have and while we hope and pray for the outcome of a living baby with ten toes and ten fingers and a strong heart that beats and beats and beats much longer than my heart and Mike's, we also celebrate the fact that Hope exists at all. And we thank God for the gift of Life.
And still I couldn't share Hope with you in the month of August, but today is September and September feels like it can have Hope in it. September feels better and Vincent announced at a gathering yesterday that there is 'a baby in my mommy's belly'. And soon we will tell our church family. And they will congratulate us and I will quiver a little when they do because this heartbeat would not have been without the loss of our Sweet Eva's heartbeat. And my heart aches for Eva still...