Great Loss, Great Grace, and A God Who Redeems: Mary Anna’s Story (A Guest Post by Kari Caldwell)featured
I sit down to write with a granola bar in hand and a baby monitor on my desk. My story is redemptive in so many ways, but the redemption does not make it any less sad or hard. I think that my biggest hurdle in my entire journey is recognizing that there is much grace even in the really hard places.
My name is Kari, and I married my high school sweetheart at the spry age of 22. We were young and in love. We knew nothing about life, but we had big dreams, and we were going to accomplish them together. We’re still working on those dreams, but he’s still my one true love, and I could not have walked this walk without him by my side. He is my energy, and he is always with me through it all.
A few years after we got married, we decided that we wanted to start our family. You just marry the right guy, have babies, maybe get a dog first, buy a house, and that’s it right?? Well that’s what my little sheltered brain thought.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am adopted, so I knew that there was a chance that we could not have children, but I never thought there would be a chance to do what we were going to have to do. Never.
We got a positive pregnancy test pretty fast, and we were excited, poor in professional school, and scared. But before we could really process any of those emotions, it ended two weeks later with a miscarriage while I was at work. It was really sad and hard, but we knew it was a possibility, and we felt very hopeful still. But it was REALLY sad.
Then we got another positive pregnancy test a few months later, and I felt a little more confident this time around. I had already had the statistic of 1 in 3 babies end in a miscarriage, and I went to church every Sunday, and I was a good girl, and I prayed most days, so surely this baby would be fine, right?
Well I am sure you can figure out where this one goes… I started bleeding and cramping while we were on a family vacation in NYC, and it ended 24 hours later in the ER back in Alabama, with the doctors telling me that we lost the baby. I was almost 12 weeks pregnant, a.k.a the “safe zone”, and it was HORRIBLE. Like this miscarriage was terrible in so many ways. It was emotionally and physically way worse than the first, and by this point I became a wreck. I just knew that something was wrong, and that we would never have a child.
Her Name Is Mary Anna
By the nudge of a good friend, we saw a specialist, and he found a few things, and I became pregnant again a few short months later. He kept a close watch on me every week, and this sweet baby was doing just fine!
I was finally carrying a baby! I was still emotionally raw and drained from the first two losses, and by this point pregnant people and babies made me sad. I would leave dinner parties and cry the whole way home, because I just did not understand, WHY?
Well it was that time to find out the gender of this growing baby, so Dan and I went into the appointment very excited and starting to feel hopeful… and we left crying. There were some concerns, and they wanted to refer us to a specialist. Of course… I remember the ultrasound technician listing all the things that were “abnormal”, and then she said, “I mean, do you even want to know the gender of this baby?” Through tears I was confused and mad at how harsh she was being and said, “YES!”
A baby girl!
We named her Mary Anna that day, and we she will always be our baby girl.
We had a very tough pregnancy, and I spent most of the time driving 2 hours one way to see specialists. We never got a firm diagnosis on what was going on, so we just prayed. We prayed a lot. And we were confident that the Lord would provide and heal whatever was ahead.
He did. It just was not in the way that we anticipated.
Beautiful Baby Girl
Around 34 weeks, I was put into the hospital, because her heart rate kept dropping. I stayed there for 5 days just waiting, and they finally put me on an ambulance, and I rode that long 2 hours again to UAB, where they would be able to keep a closer eye on me and baby girl.
We had her about 24 hours after arriving in Birmingham, via emergency C-section, and she was a 2 lbs. 10 oz. bundle of beauty. She had a clubbed foot, but besides that there was nothing wrong, and our biggest hurdle would be for her to gain weight and avoid any viruses that are common among preemies. We began our stay in the NICU, and I was back and forth trying to recover and trying to spend time with our sweet girl.
About 24 hours after she was born, we got a call in the middle of the night that she was not doing well, and they wanted us to come down to her room immediately. We got there to the harsh sight of her being on a ventilator, and the doctors throwing consent forms, and telling us that it was not looking good.
How did we end up here again?
My heart hurt more than my scar on my belly, and I had held her the night before, and now she had tubes and wires, and it was just a hard sight to see. We called my parents immediately, and the next morning we were all sitting waiting on yet another procedure to be done, and the specialist came and asked to speak to Dan and I.
The Most Beautiful, Awful Day
We sat by Mary Anna’s bed, and I was looking at her while she rested peacefully with a pounding heart, and the doctor said that she had Trisomy 18, and that she would not live.
He teared up as he told us this news, and he was tender and wonderful, and somehow at that moment I just knew that I was about to have to let my baby girl go. I was about to say goodbye to my 3rd child in a row.
Dan and I prayed through what to do, and we decided to go ahead and have her baptized and remove her from the ventilator that next morning. 4 days after she was born, we were holding her as she was taking her last breaths.
We sang hymns, prayed over her, kissed her, and somehow the Lord was there, and He was still good. I remember not being angry at that moment, but just trusting that this was right. That God loved her more than me, and that he was answering our prayers by taking her home.
The sun was starting to set, and we were singing Amazing Grace, and Dan told me that she was gone. I did not want to lay her down, but I knew I had to. My daughter literally died in my arms.
It was the most beautiful, yet awful day of my life.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
What I Have Learned and Where We Are Now
And over two years later, with a healthy baby boy, William, and another one on the way, I can tell you that God is good. He has sustained us and kept us and loved us deeper through the pain.
I would change the outcome. I would bring her back if I could, but I would not change who I am or what I have learned through all of this.
Mary Anna taught me how much the King of Kings loves us, and how richly He provides through it all. She taught me how to look at life differently, and how to love harder and richer. Our angel taught me how to be a better wife and mommy and friend, and I do not take a day for granted anymore.
I miss her everyday. I cry all the time. I sometimes still find it hard to get out of bed, but yet, I am still better for all of it. Grief taught me that it is not a lack of faith to be sad or angry or confused. Actually, those emotions have given me a greater and deeper faith.
God Can Handle It
So go to Father with whatever it is, no matter how big or small, because He can handle it. Trust me, if he can handle me, then he can handle it. We prayed this passage over Mary Anna during my entire pregnancy, and it is our rock on which our family stands.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord,
“He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”….
“Because he loves me,” says the
Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
– parts of Psalm 91
I write from time to time at my personal blog www.KeepWalkingMAC.com if you care to follow my story more closely. My sweet husband would say that to me a lot early on after we lost Mary Anna, “We just have to Keep Walking.” We have a sweet footprint of Mary Anna that we both have as our phone backgrounds to remind us that whatever life brings to just…
Linking up with Mommy Moments on Life of Faith blog!