I got pregnant with my first baby in the Fall of 2006 and I was secretly hoping this baby was going to be a girl. Let me rephrase that: I was sure that God was going to bless me with a baby girl. When I was 16, I lost my younger sister in a tragic car accident and I was convinced that the birth of this baby [in the month of April] was going to be God’s way of redeeming my story. I remember thinking this birth was finally going to bring joy and happiness to a month we often felt sadness and desperation.
At 20 weeks, the ultrasound revealed that we were, in fact, going to have a baby boy. I hadn’t told my husband my secret thoughts, so he was a bit confused when he saw the disappointment across my face and the tears stinging my eyes. It took me a few days to get over my disappointment with God and readjust my expectations, but rest assured, I did come around to the idea of having a little boy join our family. I learned a lot about myself through that experience and I eventually came to understand just how ridiculous my expectations actually were. If God was going to redeem my story, he was never going to bring redemption through the birth of a baby girl in the month of April.
The next time I got pregnant was February of 2007. Within the first month, I knew something was different about this pregnancy. I was seeing a midwife and there were no scheduled ultrasounds until 18 weeks. I was having dreams about twins and my belly felt HUGE from the start so I asked my midwife about it. She seemed to think the chances were very slim and there was no need to check.
At 18 weeks, we went in for our first ultrasound. The technician looked confused as she searched through our chart. She asked us who our doctor was and then proceeded to tell us we were having twin girls! Although it wasn’t a total shock, we were still surprised at the news and overjoyed to welcome two baby girls into our family. That same day, we found out that our twins were identical.
We prayed about names for our girls and it wasn’t long before we decided.
Twin A would be Amelie Marie “Mia”
We chose this name because the name sounds similar to “Amy” but also ends with “Lee,” my mother’s middle name. Marie is my older sister’s middle name and my grandmother’s middle name. Three generations of incredible women, wrapped into her name!
Twin B would be Livia Joy “Livie".
The name Livia doesn’t really mean anything significant to us, but we thought it sounded like the English word for “life.” And it was perfect, because Livia was an unexpected life that we were given! Her middle name would be Joy, after Breanna Joy (my little sister); a life that was unexpectedly taken. This truly felt like such a beautiful way to redeem my story and I felt like God was trusting me with the greatest gift.
At 27 weeks we went in for our weekly ultrasound. The docs were pleased with our girls’ progress. They looked healthy and there were no indications of any problems or complications. At 28 weeks, I went in for my weekly check up and things were much different.
This time I went alone. As soon as I saw the ultrasound tech’s face, I knew something was wrong. She couldn’t tell me anything, so I reluctantly got dressed and met my doctor in the next room. I figured there was something wrong, but I could never could have prepared myself for what she said next. My doctor struggled to find the words and finally said, “we can’t find a heartbeat for baby A.”
My baby was dead. There is no nice way to tell someone that their baby is dead. I completely lost it right then and there. No questions, no words, only big breaths between sobs for my baby. When I finally lifted my head, my doctor was looking at me with tears in her eyes and told me she didn’t understand it. There was no explanation and we both sat there for a moment in silence.
A few minutes later, the high risk doctor came in and started saying a lot of things that didn’t make sense. The one thing I heard loud and clear was that because our babies are identical, they share a placenta. He then told me that our Livia Joy was going to suffer brain damage from the surge of blood that would enter her tiny body upon her sister’s death. He assured me that the damage had already been done and that we just had to wait to see how bad it was going to be.
All of a sudden, my idea of God’s redeeming love in my life seemed like a twisted, sick joke. The nurse called Chris and he quickly found a babysitter and hailed a cab to the hospital. I couldn’t tell him over the phone, so when he came into the room I melted into a puddle of tears and told him what was happening. We were devastated.
They brought me into a room to get some steriod shots because it was inevitable that Livia was now going to come early as my body would be getting mixed signals…..one dead, one alive. A few minutes after the steroids, our pastor came into the room to pray with us. I was so angry when I saw him come through that door. Not angry with him, just angry because his presence made it real. He prayed with us and we all sat there in silence for a while.
The next few weeks we didn’t grieve much. Our minds were occupied with the birth of our two babies.
How do you prepare for the birth of a dead baby? I found out pretty quickly that nobody knows. It’s unnatural and it feels wrong to give birth to a dead baby. But this was our reality and we had to find a way to honor both the death and the life in the very same moment.
4 weeks later, I gave birth to my girls.
Amelie Marie was first. She was a perfect little baby and we grieved so hard at the sight of her lifeless body. It took so much of our emotional and physical energy to bring her out into the world. She was absolutely beautiful. About an hour later Livia Joy made her way into the world. She was so hard to birth because I had given up so much of my energy and focus on Amelie's birth. Looking back I am thankful it was Amelie that came first because it gave me a reason to keep going. I wanted to celebrate the life of my little Livia Joy and I was determined to find the energy deep down within me to get her out. At 11:47pm our little Livia was born and placed in my arms for a *very* brief moment. She was beautiful and I cried and cried. They had to whisk her away to the NICU shortly after that, but we were so happy she was healthy and breathing well.
After Livia was taken and after I was a bit more settled they brought our precious Amelie back to us. She was wrapped in a beautiful pink blanket with a matching hat and we sat in awe of her beautiful features. 10 perfect little toes, 10 perfect little fingers, a perfect little nose, eyes, ears and mouth. Our hearts were completely shattered at the sight of her. Amelie weighed 1 pound, 6 ounces and measured 12 inches long. She looked exactly like her sister in every way. We will cherish these moments forever. It was hard to see our little girl like this, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. After some pictures, prayers and more tears, we said goodbye.
Today, Livia is a healthy, happy, bubbling little girl. She is a miracle. They never found any evidence of brain damage and we praise God for protecting her.
If your life has been marked by the sheer pain of an inexplicable loss, you will know what I mean when I say that all the joyful moments are often juxtaposed with a deep sadness and longing for what could have been.
But we do not long without Hope. I'll end with this post with a letter I wrote for Amelie to be read at her memorial service.
Our Dearest Amelie Marie,
We never imagined that hello would mean goodbye. Our hearts have been broken again and again as we try to imagine a life without you, our daughter. We have shed tears of deep sadness as the reality of your loss continues to set in. But you, Amelie, have given us great joy amidst the pain. Your life has taught us more about the unfailing love of God and his sovereignty over our lives. Your life has reminded us that we are part of a bigger story; a story that ends with wholeness; a story that offers hope and peace.
The news of your death has caused us great sadness over the future. It has been the death of so many hopes and dreams. We will never understand this part of the story here on earth, but we continue to trust in the one who made you and formed each part of you. Your perfectly formed body was not a mistake, dear daughter. It was a beautiful gift for which we are eternally grateful.
We long for that day to hold you again and finally tell you how much we love you face to face. You will always be in our hearts, our precious daughter.
Mommy, Daddy, Micah and Livia