Hope's Story... and a story of hope

Hope's Story... and a story of hope

“Just one more push, Lauren!” “You can do it!” I bared down and pushed with all of my might, and there she was...beautiful, perfect, but silent. Her body was pink and warm, flushed with life, while her face was purple and clammy, kissed by death. Will got to cut her cord; a should-be-joyful moment suddenly turned somber. Hope was finally here, and yet she was gone.

In my recovery room, I was exhausted and wanted to sleep, so I asked my mom to hold Hope for a while. But within about a minute, I asked for her back. When she was in my arms, I felt whole and complete, but if I let someone else hold her, I felt a gut-wrenching ache. I needed to cling to her for as long as possible. Around 6 am, someone came in to take her away, and I told them to leave because I wasn’t ready. At 7 am, as I felt her body begin to stiffen, I knew that it was time to say goodbye. The funeral director came in with a beautiful Moses basket. I kissed her over and over, whispering a lifetime’s worth of love into her ears. I handed her over to Will, sobs beginning to rack my body. He cradled her and kissed her goodbye, and then he placed our sweet Hope in the basket. As the door closed behind the director, Will and I wept together, feeling like our hearts had been ripped out of our bodies and carried away in that basket.

All we wanted to do was go home, but we still had to make sure I was recovered enough to be discharged. A few hours later, we walked to our car in a daze; it honestly felt like a dream. How could we be leaving the hospital with an empty backseat? We arrived home and my body was dealing with pain from birth, hormonal swings, bleeding, etc. while my mind was reeling from shock. Family and friends passed through, crying with me and saying how sorry they were. Most of that day is a blur, but I do remember sitting on the edge of my bed, sobbing as I read my daughter’s obituary. Reading about your daughter’s death makes reality sink in fast.

The next day, my parents and in-laws went to the funeral home to see Hope since most of them were not present at her birth. I remember trying to fall asleep that night, but I was haunted by the thought that my baby girl was lying in a funeral parlor alone. The next day was the funeral. My milk was coming in, so my sister bought me tight sports bras to wear to help the pain. I put cabbage leaves in the bra to draw out the milk, and I cried as I thought about the irony of my milk coming in on the day I was going to bury my daughter.

I held it together pretty well until we drove up to the church and I caught a glimpse of the casket. At that moment, the weight of grief swept over me like a tsunami. It was a beautiful white casket, two feet long, covered in gorgeous flowers. I stared at it, trying to get my brain to understand that my baby was in there. All I wanted to do was open it up, get her out, and hold her in my arms. I wanted Jesus to come down, right then and there, and perform a miracle. Our pastors spoke comforting words, and our friends sang a beautiful song about the hope of heaven. We released tons of balloons into the sky, and then it was time to say goodbye. I wept over Hope’s casket, hating that she was going to be laid in a grave instead of a crib.

As we left the cemetery, the funeral was over, but the real battle had just begun. I endured weeks of postpartum pain and bleeding with no baby to show for it. I paid thousands of dollars worth of medical bills, each one a punch in the gut as I walked back from the mailbox. Instead of deciding which outfit my baby should wear each day, I was choosing which material her gravestone should be. Things like cleaning, cooking, etc. that used to be so simple were now incredibly difficult to accomplish. I had to find a new normal and relearn how to be a wife and mother in a world without my baby girl. It was an agonizing process, and I wondered if I would ever find joy again.

However, during those terrible days following Hope’s death, I found comfort and hope in the Psalms. There are so many Psalms devoted to lament, and their existence and inclusion in the Bible told me that God was no stranger to grief. He was aware that life was often quite terrible, and because of that, He gave us the Psalms as a place to find solidarity, empathy, understanding, and hope. One of my favorites is Psalm 43:2-5, which states, “For you are the God in whom I take refuge, why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

God understands your grief, and He knows that the journey is unbelievably difficult. But He offers us hope, He offers us Jesus. He promises to walk with us through the pain, and He promises that if we put our hope and trust in Him, we will not only survive, but we will once again praise Him with joy. 

Lauren Young is a wife to Will and mom to two beautiful boys on earth (Matti and Sammy) and three precious babies in heaven (Hope, Jonah, and January).  She is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys writing, reading good books, cooking new recipes, and playing piano.  She lives in central Texas now but was born and raised in Georgia.  She and her husband are now in the adoption process and can't wait to see what God has in store for their family.   

Catherine Hartel

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