Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Gift of Forty-eight Hours

I had tried to prepare myself to say goodbye to Elizabeth. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would look like, or exactly how I’d make it through this, but for twenty weeks I’d lived with the knowledge that my baby girl would be born with a fatal condition and that we’d likely not have much time together. This twenty weeks was time that I’d graciously been given by God to grieve and plan and pray and enjoy Elizabeth as much as I could. I anticipated her arrival and inevitable departure with a mix of joy and trepidation. What I hadn’t really prepared for was watching my baby girl slowly decline over two day’s time.

Please don’t misunderstand. Those near forty-eight hours were the sweetest blessing I could have ever hoped for. Looking back I can see God’s sustaining presence throughout this time and how He graciously allowed so many precious memories to be made. We were able to talk to her and sing to her and pray over her and show her off to so many loved ones. We were able to change her diapers and her little outfits and feed her and take care of her physical needs and help to make her as comfortable as possible. She was so precious and beautiful and strong. I knew she would be strong. She thrived so in my womb. But when that life-support was taken away, she began to weaken.

By Friday night I was exhausted. All our visitors had left and the fact that I’d just given birth was quickly catching up with me. Elizabeth was doing well and Onan and I needed some rest. I did not want to send her to the nursery. The thought of her being placed in a bassinet and left on her own was too disconcerting for me. She’d been in someone’s arms since the time she was born. But trying to sleep with her in my arms wasn’t working. I attempted it for a very brief while and had woken up feeling panicked about how she was doing.

My night nurse, Cindy, had the solution. She’d actually had it all planned out before I’d even voiced my concern. She would simply wear Elizabeth in a sling as she worked. If a patient needed her, Elizabeth would be temporarily handed over to someone else who could cradle her. The receptionist on our floor apparently loved newborns and would be thrilled to take a shift. She would not go to the nursery, she would not be put down. She would be held and cared for through the night. This wasn’t exactly “hospital policy”, but this is why Cindy worked the night shift on weekends--it was easier to bend the rules. I was able to sleep a solid couple of hours on Friday night and awoke Saturday morning to my sweet nurse pulling a rocking chair into our room because she’d discovered Elizabeth loved to be rocked. She’d figured out a new, more conducive head bandage for her and had her wrapped up in a knitted blanket that someone had made especially for NICU babies. I could not have been more content with how Elizabeth had spent that time away from me.

Saturday was a full day of Elizabeth Grace. Our children and families and friends came back to see her and hold her and love her. The neonatologist on call continued to check on her. We were told that as she became weaker there would be periods where she would struggle to breathe and that we should expect her color to become dusky. We nodded and said okay, not really grasping how hard to watch this would be. She also wanted us to know that as her breaths became more shallow and spaced out, Elizabeth would go into a “comatose-like” state and would not be able to feel any pain or discomfort.

Elizabeth gave us a few scares throughout the day. Just as predicted, her breaths would become gaspy and she’d take them further apart. Her color would darken to a bluish-purple and we’d call for our nurse. Then she would start to do better. Her normal color would return and her breathing would regulate. Elizabeth Grace was a fighter. We continued to care for her.

Cindy was back on Saturday evening and took care of Elizabeth the same way she’d done the night before. Before taking her late that night, she promised that if Elizabeth seemed to be doing poorly that she would bring her back to us immediately. Elizabeth held on through the night, but when she returned to us early Sunday morning it was evident that our time with her would soon be drawing to a close.

Here are some pictures of our day with her on Saturday, February the 4th.

Corby and Lizzy

Grandma and her Girls

Hanging Out (Charlie was such a proud big sister!)

Loving our Girl

Love from Aunt Bebby

Dear Friends

Holding on Strong

Elizabeth and her Favorite Nurse, Miss Cindy


  1. we prayed for miss cindy and he answered our prayers, we prayed for time with elizabeth and we answered our prayers.... the list goes one. He hears our prayers. love you!

  2. You know Leah - I have so much to write you, and I will. You know how it is when you have the words and time to sit and write what you want instead of when you're lying in bed circulating all the things you should remember to say. I MANY a times carried around my sweet little patients on the floor with me! I couldn't handle lying them down when their parents couldn't be there. That Cindy was surely an answered prayer. It's not an easy job being a nurse. You experience great joys when people do well and great sorrow for people on a daily basis! You carry it home and you wonder and think and pray for those people for years and years and years to come. Cindy will always remember your sweet family as you will remember hers.
    Allow yourself to admit the great pains and sorrow that Elizabeth's passing has brought -- it is certainly safe to grieve. You will occasionally be encourage to celebrate and be joyful and that isn't necessarily bad advice - but we take great joy in the knowledge of what our God is doing and in our faith in Christ's redemption....... but that does not me that we don't carry a heavy burden of loss at this time. We are all praying for you guys and we just love you and your witness to the world!!

  3. I came upon your blog a few weeks ago when it was shared by a friend on facebook. I went back to the beginning and read through everything. I just want you to know that I can only imagine this experience feels, but you put it into words beautifully. You are an amazingly strong woman. Reading your words has inspired me so much and has given me a whole new way to see faith and strength. I have had a hard time dealing with a loss for a few months now and your blog has helped me to appreciate every breath that I had with my special person. I admire you and pray for you and your family's continued strength. Thank you for doing this blog and sharing your story.

  4. Leah,

    You are such a strong women, not only physically but spiritually as well. You and your family continue to be in our prayers and thoughts. What a wonderful role model you are for your children and those around you.

    Kristi Culp Talbot

  5. Prayers to you and your family. Thank you for putting our story out there, it is equally as inspiring as it is heartbreaking. Your daughter was blessed...some people don't have that much love in a lifetime.

  6. At 42 and single, and praying for the restoration of my marriage, it's a pretty safe assumption that I'll never be a mom. (Now look, now that I've said that, God is likely to make a way!) And that is a hard thing to accept. But as I've read your story (learned about it from Rejoice Ministries), I thought to myself, "if my only experience of being a mother was carrying a child that I know would live just 2 days, would it be worth it?" And the answer is yes, absolutely. You loved that child with everything you had, and with a strength that came from the Lord. Thank you for sharing your stories and your pictures. I look forward to meeting Elizabeth Grace in heaven.

    Melanie in NJ

  7. Leah and Ony,
    Thanks for sharing your time, emotions, thoughts, fears, grief, hope, and love with and for Elizabeth Grace for all to see. God has used and will continue to use your family and Lizzy to launch a tremendous outreach ministry. Thank you for being faithful to Him.

    Love you all!

  8. Thank you for sharing each thought and feeling that you did, as I prayed for you during it. I know that you have been a blessing to so many. God has blessed you, even in your sorrow and loss. Your witness and testimony have been touching and astounding. I pray that He gives you the comfort and strength to carry on. The pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your lives with so many. God bless you.

    Rebecca Weber, New Jersey

  9. speechless! be strong!!

  10. This story makes me so happy and so sad at the same time. What a strength! I am so glad that you got to spend time with your precious girl! I am Mindy's sister in law and I was praying for your family. God bless you and thank you for sharing, this is a great lesson in gratitude!

    Kirosha C. Huggan