I was eight months pregnant with our first child when I first felt a fear no mother ever wishes to feel. My baby wasn’t moving. As the fear became a slight twinge of terror, my husband, Johnnie, and I made our way to the hospital with the hope tests would ease our fears. On the way, Johnnie even joked, “We might have her tonight.” Turns out he was right.
At the hospital, they said our little girl was in distress and needed to be delivered immediately.
Stress and anxiety overwhelmed me when the nurse said my husband would be unable to stay with me through the emergency c-section. The news delivered a crushing reality of the severity of the situation, and minutes later, our daughter Angela Maria (Angel) was born.
Our lives were changed. Forever.
After the Birth
Angel wasn’t breathing when she was born, and doctors had to resuscitate her. Then our baby was rushed to another hospital close by that had a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). My heart still breaks remembering the emptiness and loneliness my husband and I felt that night. Our arms ached to hold our baby girl, but I was in one hospital and she was in another. Our hearts were heavy with uncertainty about her health.
After two days in the NICU, doctors learned Angel had suffered brain damage and consulted a neurologist. The neurologist said our daughter had suffered an acute lack of oxygen and diagnosed her with cerebral palsy. Her condition was extremely severe, and he prepared us to accept she would likely die in the NICU.
My comeback? “He doesn’t know what he is talking about. He is not God.” I repeated those sentences to my husband after every follow-up visit with the neurologist for the next three years.
Realization Sets In
We had only been married four years and were still in our younger years when Angel was born. We thought we had planned things just right — down to the perfect, baby-girl detail. We were so naive. The diagnosis felt like a slap in the face.
After the initial shock, Johnnie and I felt reassured that the Lord had a plan for us and our beautiful Angel. After one month in the NICU, you would have been hard-pressed to find prouder parents as we prepared to bring our first baby home.
Life was not easy. Our daughter would never be able to suck a bottle, eat foods, support her head, blink her eyes, talk or any of the things you and I take for granted every day of our lives. Hospital visits were the norm. Complications were expected and landed us in pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) several times. We even had the scary need to resuscitate her at our home.
Because of Angel’s need for constant medical attention, I was unable to continue working, and that led to financial issues on top everything else. Blessed with a multitude of loving friends and family who longed to help, we still found ourselves overwhelmed with her needs. We couldn’t even go to church because there was no way to leave her in the nursery.
Throughout all of this — maybe even because of it — we learned the definition of perseverance and had the blessing of feeling the Lord’s hand over our sweet family.
No More Suffering
I would love to say the Lord healed Angel and she is physically with us today, but it wouldn’t be true. God called her home when she was three years and two months old. We grieved Angel’s death long before she ever physically left us — remember, we were told she would likely not survive to get out of the NICU.
But the Lord was so good to us! He allowed us both to be with Angel in our home when she took her final breath. No words can explain the peace Johnnie and I felt in that moment. We knew in that instant she would never physically suffer again. Selfishly, we did not want her to die; however the Lord had even bigger plans for her.
As hard as it was, we let her go. We mourned. We cried. We struggled with thoughts of having more children, not wanting to seem like we were attempting to replace her. Through it all, God comforted us.
Healing Hands, Healing Hearts
God eventually led me to go back to college to become a nurse. I had been told multiple times, “You should be a nurse; you could do that with all the things you did for your daughter.”
Truthfully, I had no desire to be nurse. What I did have a desire for was to be used by God to witness to other parents going through similar trials we had endured. I realized the best way to do that was to become a nurse and work in the neonatal ICU. With God’s help, I did just that.
Later I went to work in the PICU — even though I had emphatically stated I would never work there. That would hit way too close to home. I felt the NICU was the good side because we got to bring our baby home from there. To me, the PICU was the bad side because we took Angel there every time she was near death. However, the Lord said, “Go.” So I went.
Finally, God led me to be a hospice nurse, which is where I serve now. I feel honored to be a part of people’s lives during such an intimate time. I believe God has a mission field for all His followers.
Going Along for the Journey
God already had a plan for Johnny and me; we just had to be open vessels. Through Angel’s life and death, God has opened door after door for us to witness to people both young and old. Though we are unsure about what our future holds, it’s so good to know our Lord holds it in His hands; we just have to trust Him and go along for the journey.
I have heard time after time, “I don’t know how you could go on after losing a child.” Well, my response to that is Angel never belonged to us anyway. The Lord just entrusted us with her care while she was here.
Another thing I have heard time after time is, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
My response to that is, “Don’t be.” I could never have imagined my life without her, even with the trials and heartaches we’ve endured. I wouldn’t be the person I am today and rely on the Lord as I do if it weren’t for our journey.
I am blessed beyond measure. I have a God Who loves me more than I can ever imagine, and I know He loves Angel more than I could ever love her. I also know that through Angel’s life and death, He has and will continue to complete His work through her. I believe the Lord knew long before Johnnie and I ever had our first date back in high school that He was preparing us for this journey. We just had to accept it and allow Him to use us.
We have since been blessed with two sons, each of them having their own correctable medical problems early on. I believe each of those experiences is God’s way of reminding us that all of our children belong to Him.