Share Your Story Saturday {Angelique’s Story}

I’ve always believed one of my missions is motherhood. In the fall of 2013, my purpose was fulfilled. I presented a pair of Longhorn baby booties and a stick with a positive reading to my husband, Matt. I’ve always believed I was meant to be a mom, but I wholeheartedly believed I was meant to be the mom to a daughter. I remember praying the night before the gender reveal party.

“God, if you made this baby a boy, can you change it because I really need it to be a girl,” knowing God had already made the decision of my child’s gender long before conception.

That next day, friends and family sprayed us with pink silly string. God gave me my girl. I walked into the house after the silly string settled and wrote her name for everyone to see—McCartney Piper Lee. The daughter I prayed for was real and she had a name.

At 33 weeks, I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome—a life-threatening disorder of the liver and blood usually associated with preeclampsia—and was sent immediately to the hospital. The only treatment is delivery, so after multiple shots to the thighs and an IV filled with what I’m pretty sure was molten lava. We were then prepped for what our inevitable C-section was going to look like. At 2:47am, on April 25, 2014, McCartney Piper Lee was born.

Because she was early and would need NICU care, I was given just a moment to kiss her face before she was swept away. I’ll never forget the cooing noises she made. They were the sweetest sounds I’d ever heard.

It was halfway through the next day before my health allowed me to visit her. My nurse rolled me into the NICU where Matt eagerly awaited to give me hand washing instructions. Then, I saw her—all 3lbs 4oz of her. Her hair was almost silver it was so white. I sang to her “Jesus Loves Me.” I held her itty bitty hand and cradled her tiny feet.

We floated through the next day getting used to the idea that we were now Mom and Dad. Matt only left her side to eat and sleep. He sang to her, read to her, and told her about his favorite football game. He called her his best friend.

The neonatologist explained a minor procedure they were going to do. As we waited in our room, we got a call asking us to go back to the NICU. Her doctor met us at the doors saying something went wrong, and her health was rapidly declining. He said we should go to her and encourage her.

As the nurses were trying to resuscitate her, we stood at her side calling out, “C’mon baby girl! C’mon McCartney! Hang in there, princess. You can do this baby! Fight!”

We touched her—hoping that it would help her find the strength to hang on, but it didn’t.

On April 27, 2014, I held my daughter for the first time—lifeless.

An autopsy revealed that McCartney had a genetic disorder, Trisomy 18. Her actual cause of death, though, was bacillus virus. This was something the neonatologist had never seen in his many years as a doctor. Between these rare complications and her premature birth, it was clear to us—she was not created to stay earth side long. Her swift return to the Lord’s arms was in her DNA and God’s will.

I’ll never forget holding her, in what would be the last moments we spent with our daughter, and looking into Matt’s eyes when he whispered, “Now what?”

Exactly.

What do you do when your child dies? What’s next after the life you planned for is lying cold in your arms?

We came home to an empty bedroom with pink walls and a white crib that would never hold anything but her ashes. I lost my daughter and my trust in the Lord.

We joked with tearful eyes that we wished there was a handbook telling us what to do in the days to come. Instead of just instructions on how to pick out the right funeral home, I wanted instructions for how to take my next breath. How do you put one foot in front of the other when everything in you is in pieces?

People around us were equipped to function where we could not. The embrace of others led to homemade meals, church elders sitting in our living room, family from everywhere showing up at our doorstep, and a friend who never left our couch. We became the mission of our missional community. Our group leader texted every day to ask how I was. She would either speak truth where there were lies, or offer comfort where the truth was painful. The Lord was working through her when I didn’t want to listen to Him. They were reminding us to breathe when it would have been so much easier to just stop.

And then there was God.

Why would God give me exactly who I prayed for and then take her away? What kind of Father would allow this kind of suffering? This was not the God I thought I knew. I remember reading this line from C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed in the weeks after McCartney died:

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’”

I knew that I wasn’t going to stop believing in God, but I no longer liked who I thought He was. I was processing feelings of aversion to Him, but I couldn’t deny Him.

I would start to speak to Him and then retract it, “Not today, God.” I would think, I’m not ready for You, yet.

I wanted to trust in Him and scream at Him at the same time. Grief paralyzed me. My arms physically hurt from being empty. I knew I needed to go to God for strength, but I felt too betrayed to speak to Him.

My missional community leader arranged for me to see a faith-based counselor. Despite my discomfort as an internal processor, I slowly began to speak about my anger with the Lord. Every tear shed in that room was leading me back to Him. I had someone to talk to when gospel truth was necessary, but still felt like a sharp knife. The Holy Spirit guided my counselor to show me the normalcy in my grief. I found reassurance that I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t lost. I was—I am—a grieving believer.

I started to wonder what it would be like if I welcomed the Lord’s embrace in my suffering. One of the things I started doing early on that made me feel connected to McCartney was writing her name in the fog on the shower door. I still do it every day. One day, I wrote another name above her name—Jesus.

I started to find my identity in Him instead of her.

Just when I began my return to the Lord, we got pregnant. For me, that meant hooking arms with fear and anxiety while trying to get a glimpse of the Lord through grief’s fog.

After 38 weeks of what-ifs and how-will-I questions, I got to meet my son, Foster. The initial moments after they pulled him from my belly were terrifying. In the first glimpse I had of him over the sheet, I saw his sister.

I grabbed my nurse’s hand—she was my hero nurse who had taken me to see McCartney for the first time—and pleaded, “Is he okay?”

She said, “He’s perfect.”

Fear and anxiety didn’t just disappear, though. I have to take so many thoughts captive to separate out the truth and the lies. Having the support of other loss moms when I find myself drowning in grief can make the difference between being able to want to see the light of day, or wanting to hide in a dark corner. I have other mamas to reach out to who can remind me to trust the Lord. They know the strength that it takes because they have walked a similar path.

When I heard the term Hope Mommy, I started thinking about what hope has meant to me throughout different stages of my grief and what it means to me now.

In the early days, the idea of hope felt like a stab in the gut. All of my hope was in the clawing desire to get back to McCartney. My hope was that God would supernaturally give her back to me or just take me from this world to be with her.

Months after her death, there was hope that I could love and trust God in all of His goodness.

When I was pregnant with my son, my hope was that I would be able to love someone else who wasn’t my daughter.

After Foster was born, my hope became entangled in my fear. I hoped my child wouldn’t be taken from me again.

Between then and now, my hope has been to find freedom from fear and anxiety so that I can love without walls. My hope is now in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who knows my heart when I overlook or shy away from prayer. From a dark place where I saw nothing but useless suffering, I now see purpose. My hope isn’t to just survive, my hope is to thrive in His perfect path and glorify His mighty name!

I remember sitting on the floor of my living room with church elders and our missional community. I said the only thing that will ever make this okay is if her death brings someone to Christ. Little did I know, it was going to be me.

- Angelique

Hope Mom to McCartney Piper Lee

I live in the Austin area with my husband, Matt, our son, Foster, three dogs, and a turtle. I am a stay-at-home mom and work from home as a full-time Stitch Fix stylist. I love cheering on our favorite teams (Go Cubs, Spurs, & Longhorns!) with Matt and Foster, playing fantasy football, listening to books, having family dance parties in the kitchen, cooking, and spending quality time with my nearest and dearest.

 


We would be honored to share your story as a Hope Mom on our blog. Every Saturday we feature a Hope Mom’s story in order to showcase God’s faithfulness even in the midst of such deep sorrow. If you would like to have your story shared on our blog for this purpose, learn more and submit here.


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2 Replies to "Share Your Story Saturday {Angelique's Story}"

  • Marietta Sims
    June 19, 2017 (12:42 pm)
    Reply

    Dearest Angelique, thank you for sharing your journey and your heart. It has left a deep imprint on me and it is a story I needed to hear from you. There are no words to adequately express how I feel about you, but know simply that I love you deeply and you are always and forever in my heart.
    Mimi

  • Nicki
    June 19, 2017 (4:44 pm)
    Reply

    What a beautiful story of hope. You are a blessing, sweet angel. Love to you and yours.


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