If you’ve lost a baby like I have, it may feel particularly hard to celebrate a holiday all about a young mother giving birth to a perfect baby. It seems there are triggers all around.
I remind myself that the reason we celebrate the birth of Jesus is because he was born to die. He was born and lived a sinless life only to suffer the punishment of sin in our place. Because of Jesus’s birth and death, God knows what it’s like to lose a child. Because of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection, our children experience life and love in heaven. Because of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection we will be reunited one day. That’s something to celebrate!
You may still not feel like celebrating this year, and that’s ok. There are more years to come.
When we started trying to have a baby, I told Daniel and myself not to get our hopes up. It usually takes a few months to get pregnant and often longer than that. That first month of trying I took a pregnancy test without telling Daniel. Before the results were in, I sat on the couch and asked Daniel to check the test in 3 minutes. He was caught off guard. I told him I didn’t think I was pregnant, but I wanted to take the test just in case. After 3 minutes, he cautiously walked to the bathroom. He was silent. I called out, “Well what does it say?!” He showed me the test with wide eyes. It was positive! We hugged and teared up! It was a very happy and exciting but scary moment. We knew there was no going back. We were both very surprised and blessed at how quickly it happened. That was July 26, 2018.
Our families were shocked and ecstatic when we told them the news over FaceTime. No one expected us to have children. They were all thrilled! The due date was April 3, 2019. A spring baby! I always loved spring. I loved that it represented new life!
Because work was so stressful, I had a lot of anxiety in the first trimester. Daniel encouraged me to quit my job. I was planning on being a stay-at-home mom anyway. There was no point in enduring that stress. I quit my job at the 12 week mark. It was a relief. For the rest of 2018 I was busy finding a new house and preparing for the holidays. Daniel’s parents were able to come for the anatomy scan on November 20 when they were in town for Thanksgiving. We found out we were having a little girl! We were all so happy! We named her Virginia Hope Jones after Daniel’s great grandmother, a very special person in our family. We would call her Ginny.
Without fail we excitedly attended every prenatal appointment. Everything looked perfect and went smoothly. She always had a strong heartbeat and was growing each week. Because I was low-risk and everything looked good, there was no third-trimester ultrasound planned. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see her again before she was born, but I was happy everything was going well.
We moved into our new house in Cary, NC in January, and I started nesting in our new place. We prepared the nursery with a garden theme. My mom came to help decorate. We had sweet sunflowers lining her crib, a cute green rug that looked like grass, and a sign in the shape of birdhouses that said “ginny” above her crib. It was perfect.
Daniel and I attended classes on breastfeeding and child birth. Daniel even went to “Daddy Bootcamp.” I spent days trying to prepare as much as I could. I watched video after video of how to take care of newborns, birth vlogs, baby item essentials. We were nearly ready. We had all the clothes and supplies we needed. I had packed the hospital bag. All we had to do was wait. I loved spending time feeling and watching my belly. I loved to feel her hiccup and move. She would move a lot anytime there was a loud noise or music. I was obsessed with trying to figure out what position she was in. Daniel would laugh at me as I guessed everyday, “I think she is head down now…or maybe she is sideways!” I’d put his hand on my belly anytime I’d feel her move. He was so excited to hold her. Only a little over a month left!
On Thursday February 21 we had our normal prenatal appointment. We heard her heart beating at a strong 147 bpm. The midwife brought out a small ultrasound machine to determine her position. She was head down! That was a relief to me. The midwife measured my belly. I was supposed to be 34 cm but was 31 cm. She ordered a growth scan for Monday to ensure Ginny was growing properly. She said that most likely everything is fine and she is growing, but we want to just make sure since my belly was small. This made me a little nervous but also excited. I was glad we would get another chance to see her before she was born.
I looked forward to the ultrasound on Monday afternoon. I tried not to get my hopes up that we would get a good face picture. I knew she was pretty squished in there so it might be hard to get one. I was so eager to see her.
Daniel met me at the hospital. As we waited in the waiting room he asked if I was nervous, and I said, “yes a little but mostly excited.” I thought the worst case scenario would be that Ginny was small and that they would decide to take her early and she would spend time in the NICU. I thought that wasn’t likely, but I still tried to prepare for what I thought was the worst possible outcome.
I was wrong. That wasn’t the worst possible outcome. What truly happened was worse than I could’ve imagined.
The ultrasound technician moved fast. Instead of starting with the heartbeat as usual, she seemed to be quickly and hap hazardously taking measurements. This was so unlike the previous ultrasounds we had. I asked to see the heartbeat and she abruptly said that she was measuring some things now. She was moving so quickly. I couldn’t make sense of what she was doing. It made me very nervous. I finally asked again, “Can I please see her heartbeat?!” She said she was having trouble finding it. I started breathing really heavy, hyperventilating. She rubbed my arm and said to breathe. She went to get the doctor.
Daniel and I started praying. I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed before. We BEGGED God for a miracle. We pleaded and pleaded that when the doctor comes there will be a heartbeat. We prayed that Ginny would be born alive and grow up. We held hands and prayed. My heart was beating so hard. Daniel said he could see it through my sweater.
The doctor came in with the technician. She put the wand to my belly again…nothing. The doctor said, “I’m so sorry. I have to give you the worst news.” Everything fell still. I became calm. Daniel was crying behind me. I sat up and started asking questions, “Is there anyway to know what happened? What are the next steps?” I realized it was weird that I was so calm. I told the doctor, “I don’t know why I’m not crying.” He said I was probably in shock. I know the Holy Spirit was filling me with peace to get through that moment.
We were sent home to wait for instruction from my doctors. That was the longest car ride home followed my the longest evening ever. Time seemed to creep by. Daniel and I hugged and cried on the couch. I read the dreaded baby loss chapter of my “What to Expect” book. The doctors called to schedule the induction. I was to be induced at 9am tomorrow morning. I had no idea how I could possibly bear going through labor and delivery with no living baby as a reward! Our young adult pastor visited us and prayed with us. Our mothers decided to fly in, and I’m so grateful they did. We waited until around 2:30am for our moms’ flight to arrive. We picked them up from the airport in quiet tears. I was so tired.
The next morning we prayed together before leaving. I felt peace. It was incredible how quickly and smoothly everything went. We all felt the presence of God. The doctors and nurses were wonderful, caring, and sympathetic. Less than 12 hours after arriving at the hospital, I gave birth to Ginny’s body. It was Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 8:47 pm. She was 3 lbs 5 oz and 16 inches long. Daniel was amazing. He was there for me in exactly the right ways. I couldn’t have done it without him. He held my hand through the whole thing. Our moms were just the support we needed. We all got to hold and kiss Ginny’s body. She was beautiful and had dark curly hair like her daddy. A day I was expecting to be filled with pain and fear was actually filled with love and healing.
Our moms and my sister spent the week taking care of us. They shopped, cooked, and cleaned for us. We received 9 flower deliveries and several care packages. Our friends covered us in love and prayers. We spent the week watching Planet Earth, crying, and coloring. Everything seemed in a bit of a haze. We went out to Target and the botanical garden. They were not effective distractions but gave us something to do. The day before our moms left, we took down the nursery. I used a knife to pry the letters off of the cute birdhouse sign – maybe someone could use to the sign for something else. We took down each baby girl outfit from the hangers one by one. This one goes to a friend… this one to be donated…this one save for a keepsake. My future dismantled piece by piece. Maybe something could be salvaged, maybe not.
Our family left. Daniel and I were alone in silence again. We got through day after day. The pain came like waves pounding against us. We still felt God with us though. It is such a bizarre feeling to have so much pain yet be full of peace and love. Grief is like that… it isn’t simple. It is complex and deep and full. It is not all bad. It is love and ache and sorrow and happiness. At first I wanted to skip it and fast-forward through time. After a while I wanted to nurture the grief; I wanted to saver it. I will always carry my grief, and I will always carry Ginny.
The doctors haven’t been able to determine definitively what caused Ginny’s death. They say things like, “Sometimes things like this just happen and no one knows why.” We had many tests done on me, Ginny’s body, and the placenta. Everything came back healthy, but she was small for her gestational age. We suspect that it might have been the umbilical cord tight around her neck or perhaps a blood clot in the cord. We may never know for sure.
This loss has given me a new perspective on life. I see myself in terms of eternity now. I look forward to the day I will be with Ginny in heaven. Death doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. At the same time, life is more precious. I want to enjoy and celebrate every moment because it is not guaranteed. I love deeper and am so extremely grateful for Daniel and our family and friends.
I have hope for what is to come although it is unclear to me now. I know I don’t want to go back to my old life of stressful work that now seems meaningless to me. I know I want to help others going through difficult times. I don’t know what that looks like, but I think God will make my paths clear when I am ready. Now I am focused on healing and grieving.
This space was created to share my journey as a grieving mother. My daughter Virginia Hope Jones was born still on February 26, 2019. We call her Ginny. My husband Daniel and I are full of love for her and miss her with all our hearts. We do live in hope that she is happy in the arms of Jesus and we will see her again. For me, one of the most helpful grieving outlets has been writing. I decided to post some of these writings for others to see. I’ve grown so much in love, compassion, and faith through our loss. I hope to share some of what I’m experiencing and learning.