Feb 28, 2014

Choosing the Pretty One

These are the moments that have made up the last two months of our lives. As the Lord has taught us, I have been writing. It does me so much good to put into words what the Lord is teaching me or what I am feeling as we go. If at times it sounds like I'm preaching to you, it's more than likely not the case; but I had to write it to preach to myself. To have something to read and remind me of what this was like, when I feel as if I've made no progress at all, it helps me to read about the past. When I forget the goodness of the Lord, it helps me to read of his blessings.

If you'd like to read more about the story of our Hannah Grace click here.

December 19, 2013

Yesterday we went to the local funeral home to make arrangements.

No one should ever have to plan a funeral for their baby. No one should ever have to think about life without their child. I’ve thought about writing a book and calling it ‘Life After Death,’ for many reasons. It could be about how odd it is to have a baby die only to later give birth to her. She died and then she was born. It could also be about how our daughter now has true life with the Lord after her death. Oh the assurance of knowing she is with the Lord. My greatest fear in becoming a parent was the chance that my child may not ever know the Lord. That is no longer my worry for our Hannah, for she knew Him instantly. But the book could also be about my life after her death, we have to pick up the pieces and carry on.

But one thing I’ll never forget from that day in funeral home is when they asked us to pick out a casket for her. Oh, no mother should ever have to do that. They showed us a beautiful white casket and then another casket that would be less costly. And all I could think was that a mother chooses a crib for her baby to lay; a mother chooses a crib for her sweet precious baby.

Not a casket.

But there we were, a young married couple eager to be a family and we already had a beautiful crib in her beautiful nursery. But we were picking out caskets because that was the only place she’d ever lay her head again. I had researched the safest cribs. I picked out the sheets. I read about the safety of the pack-n-play and I even got it set up in our room. I read pages and pages about all the places she’d lie and sleep. But nowhere on the ‘must-have’ list and the registry recommendations, no one mentioned caskets. It’s because no one is ever supposed to pick out a casket for their baby. For their 8 pound 3 ounce 21.5 in long baby girl.

And I looked at both of the pictures of the caskets and I cried, they only had two choices in the baby-sized caskets. I had researched everything, but I had no facts, no recommendations, no data about which casket was best. We were making all the decisions and I honestly wanted to pick the pretty white casket for our baby girl.  I wanted to have a beautiful casket for our baby girl who would never wear a beautiful prom dress, who would never have a beautiful wedding, who would never even wear anything nice. But I was sure the pretty one was more expensive, and the funeral man explained that of course the pretty white casket cost more. And I didn’t know what to do.

Then Kyle reminded me. We had a group of families, families that we love dearly, that heard about Hannah and banded together to pay for her funeral. And I never understood why people give money to people who have lost loved ones, it’s not like the money could bring them back. But at that moment I understood. Because less than a week after you hear your baby’s heartbeat at a very normal doctor's visit and after you finish every detail of your baby’s nursery, you are not ready to figure out what casket to buy. You are not ready to believe what has really happened. And you are not ready to decide that maybe the inexpensive casket would be okay because it ends up in the dirt where no one would see it anyway.

But instead, because of families who may never know how much it truly meant to us, I got to pick something beautiful. Something that in no way compared to how beautiful our daughter was. But something beautiful all the same. There we were in that room surrounded by all of those families when decision-making got so tough. We sat in that room supported by my parents who so patiently waited outside, so that even in the chaos, we could step up and be parents and choose what we wanted for our Hannah. And we sat in that room with all the people praying for us, and the Lord heard, for he was there with us too.

So we chose the pretty one. I am truly grateful.

Feb 26, 2014

But She Wasn't There

These are the moments that have made up the last two months of our lives. As the Lord has taught us, I have been writing. It does me so much good to put into words what the Lord is teaching me or what I am feeling as we go. If at times it sounds like I'm preaching to you, it's more than likely not the case; but I had to write it to preach to myself. To have something to read and remind me of what this was like, when I feel as if I've made no progress at all, it helps me to read about the past. When I forget the goodness of the Lord, it helps me to read of his blessings.

If you'd like to read more about the story of our Hannah Grace click here.

Some of these writings may sound like they've been thrown together, but I'm posting them just as they were when I wrote them.

December 19, 2013

I don’t know quite where to start. There are moments when I know that we’re going to be okay and moments that my heart physically aches. That feeling that I get in my right thumb when my heart is broken has become all more common in the last few days.

There are moments when everything seems to be okay and then in an instant I remember something very specific that pulls my heart from my chest.

Yesterday morning once Kyle woke up he turned to me and I smiled at him. I snuggled close to him and went to move his covers so that I could slide in close. Then I realized what I was doing. I was doing what I’d done each morning since he returned from Colorado. I was sliding in so our sweet baby could kick him so she could say good morning to her daddy. But she wasn’t there.

My heart broke. And I just cried.

I know there will be moments like that constantly when I almost forget that she’s gone.

One of those moments started out funny, actually. We were in the hospital waiting for labor to progress and the nurse was checking in on me. The nurse was standing there in our room and I tooted accidentally (oh, the embarrassments of childbirth). I hoped no one noticed and then Kyle laughed as the nurse walked out of the room. He had heard, and I laughed and said how embarrassed I was then I went to say, “but it wasn’t me…”

and then I remembered.

See for almost 10 months I’ve been the embarrassingly gassy pregnant lady. And anytime Kyle heard me I would say, “but it wasn’t me, it was the baby, I was just letting it out for the baby” in a cute little baby voice. But there in the hospital, it was not our baby, for our baby was no longer alive.

There are things I say now constantly about her, about what has happened to us, about what happened to her. When I start to cry I often repeat these things.

She was so perfect. She was so beautiful.

I miss her.

I just wanted to be her mom. I just wanted to hold her while she was alive. I know God is holding her, but I’m selfish and I wanted to hold her first.

Feb 24, 2014

His Mercies are New

Today I want to start to share with you the moments that have made up the last two months of our lives. As the Lord has taught us, I have been writing. It does me so much good to put into words what the Lord is teaching me or what I am feeling as we go. If at times it sounds like I'm preaching to you, it's more than likely not the case; but I had to write it to preach to myself. To have something to read and remind me of what this was like. When I feel as if I've made no progress at all, it helps me to read about the past. When I forget the goodness of the Lord, it helps me to read of his blessings. 

If you'd like to read more about the story of our Hannah Grace click here.

This first one was written at six in the morning while still in bed the day after Hannah was born. The Lord blessed me with some of His perspective that day, I am forever grateful that we will always think of our Hannah as a true blessing. Some of the words may be familiar as I used some of them to write Hannah's story, but I believe they are still good words. This is my testimony that truly his mercies are new every morning.

December 18, 6:22 am

There are moments, pictures, feelings that I will most certainly never forget. The last two days are now full of them. Ingrained in my mind is the picture of the ultrasound machine when Dr. Willis described our sweet baby girl. She said, ‘and this is her heart,’ and the little flutter of life we had seen before was gone. It was so still. And then all at once I knew. She didn't have to say any words, I could tell by her eyes when they turned to look at me and I screamed. The agony in that scream I'm not sure anyone will ever forget. I remember the sound of my mother’s scream when they came to our door in the middle of the night to tell her my grandfather had passed. It was the same sound, except that it came from a mother this time for her sweet baby girl. The girl that literally consumed her for the last 40 weeks, that kicked and rolled and brought so much joy to her hart. The baby girl I'd read about and researched for. Loved. I screamed and soon I yelled 'are you sure?' in desperation that this wasn't happening. I just kept screaming. Kyle and I held each other and the screams turned to sobs and acceptance. But I'll never forget that moment in time.

That moment is one that over the past few days has immediately brought me to tears no matter what else there is to consider.

But this morning it is different and I am grateful. I wake up joyful because we were blessed with her. Our sweet little baby Hannah Grace. I have tears in my eyes but a smile on my face thanking The Lord this morning for so many other precious moments. I got to love her every day from the time we knew she was created. We didn't wait to love her. I am so grateful for that.

I got to give birth to her. Although my legs were numb moments before I got feeling back when it was time I to push her little body. I got to give birth to my sweet baby girl. I felt her head coming, I knew when she was out. I was able to stare into my husband’s eyes smiling because we did it. We gave birth to her, together.

Immediately they placed her on my chest and I felt her weight, her warmth. I could finally hold her and touch her and smell her. I've never seem something so beautiful: her tiny hands, her little feet, her sweet face, that little nose. Oh it felt like she needed me, like she knew me, like I was holding the sweet baby girl I'd known inside for months. Kyle and I just kept looking at her every little part and detail and smiling and saying how perfect and beautiful she was. I kissed her head, her skin was so soft to my lips. Oh the love and joy in that room.

This morning all I can do is smile, grateful. Her daddy's face when he first saw her, I am grateful. Oh The Lord is good to us.

Feb 17, 2014

It's the Seventeenth Today

It's the seventeenth today. The sun is shining and it's a more beautiful February day than I can remember. And today I'd love to share with you the beauty of our first daughter Hannah Grace.

I pray that somehow these pictures are a blessing to you. These are the pictures of the sweet baby girl that made me a mother for the very first time. She was truly knit together by the Lord, even if one of those knots I could have lived without. She is Psalm 139:14; she is beautifully and wonderfully made. I want you to see that the Lord, knowing we would never see her alive, still made her beautiful. He is so good to us.

We've very carefully chosen the pictures we want to share. I'll let you know that if you're afraid of these pictures, don't worry, she looks more like a newborn baby who's sleeping than anything else. But I cannot promise you won't fall in love with her. I will not promise you that your eyes will remain dry, because sometimes Kyle and I were smiling and sometimes our hearts were aching and the pictures captured the truth of that room in ways I never imagined.

But today Kyle and I are proud parents. We long to show off our little girl to the many she never got to meet. To all the people who never got to hold her, who were maybe looking forward to it. I want them to see what the Lord made in our Hannah.

This is our Hannah Grace. This is her story.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

Oh, Our Lord, He is good.

Note: I would like to share that we had one of my very best friends Jill take these pictures for us, I've spoken about her many times throughout Hannah's story. But my heart hurts when I think about the families who don't have pictures or who don't have a friend who is a professional photographer willing to spend countless hours in their hospital room to capture the last moments with their sweet baby. I did find an organization online called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep that helps connect families experiencing stillbirth or infant loss to photographers in their area who are willing to donate their services free of cost. I just wanted to share that for the families out there who may need this, or who don't even know at the time that they want it. I don't have personal experiences with this organization, but I hope maybe someone will benefit from me sharing their name. Because for me, these pictures are my prized possessions. Moments we'll never have again with our Hannah, so beautifully captured through the lens of someone very talented.

Feb 11, 2014

Giving Her Away: The Story of Hannah Grace: Part Six

These moments with our Hannah are dear to my heart. I haven't yet shared these with many people, but we have these moments because someone shared their story with us. So maybe by sharing them, although I pray you never face this suffering, maybe if you do, you'll have these moments too.

And again if this is the first part you're reading, you can find the first parts of Hannah's story here. 

Giving Her Away

Early that Tuesday morning, the light began to shine through the windows. It was our baby girl’s birthday. The sun crept into the room as I held our little girl, it felt so perfect. Kyle slowly woke. He stood up and he opened the shutters and he welcomed in the morning.

But harsh reality came in with the harsh light. It was her birthday, but it was also the day we’d be giving her away. It was the last day we’d hold our baby girl.

But my Kyle is so very wise. Even though we didn’t want to, he started the discussion about when we should give her back. The nurses had told us that we could keep Hannah’s little body as long as we wanted, and then when we were ready, the nurses would take her to the nursery. I’m not sure why they say ‘when you’re ready’ because you never are truly ready to stop holding your baby girl. But we knew we couldn’t hold her forever. It was so sad seeing the signs of death take over her beautiful little body, but it was a wonderful reminder that she wasn’t with us anymore. It was a reminder that no matter how long we held her body, her soul wasn’t there, her soul was in heaven with her new body and with Jesus. But still, her body on earth was all we had left.

Kyle and I discussed waiting to give her away until I was discharged and we were packing things to leave the hospital. That’s what I thought I wanted, I thought I wanted to wait. I didn’t think I wanted to be in that hospital room without her, knowing her body was somewhere else without us. But because of my dizziness and my inability to keep down food we wouldn’t be leaving the hospital as soon as I had hoped. Hannah’s little body was changing so fast, and so my brave husband made a plan.

See our good friend had suggested we think of the things we wanted to do before Hannah’s body was gone. I had forgotten all about it, but Kyle remembered. He sat on my bed and he asked me what I wanted to do with our girl before we let her go.

I wanted to sing to her.

From the moment we were pregnant I was praying for her. And although I was sure it was too soon to start loving her, I could not help it. As I was driving home from work, just a few weeks pregnant, I had a CD in my car and a song started to play. The CD was one from our dear friends’ wedding and it’s been in my car for months; the song is the one that I believe played as they danced their first dance. And as I drove home the song started…

‘Wise men say… Only fools rush in... But I can’t help falling in love with you.’

And that day in the car, and almost every day after, I’d sing that song to our sweet girl. I couldn’t help falling in love with her, my darling. And so as we were there in the hospital room I told Kyle about the song. I told him how I had once hoped she’d hear me sing the song so many times while I was pregnant that she’d recognize it as a lullaby once she was born. I could barely get out the words because of all the tears.

So I held our baby girl, and we played the song for her, Can’t Help Falling in Love by Ingrid Michaelson. And I sang to her through so many tears. I loved holding her, singing to her, and while it seemed so perfect, I knew it was a moment I’d never have again with her. Oh how I wished I could sing to her for years. I’m sure I’ll still have that video to watch for years; it’s not my best singing, but it’s all we’ve got.

And then it was her daddy’s turn. And I asked him what he wanted, and he looked at me and he said that he wanted to dance with her. And it broke my heart, because I had dreamed so much the summer before about the day he would dance her around the barn dances, how she would love dancing with him, and how much he would treasure dancing with her. I reminded him that every time in the last nine months he’d danced with me that he had danced with her too. Every time he dipped me and twirled me around at those barn dances, he was twirling his baby girl.

But of course he could dance with her now. He stopped for a moment and picked a song. He didn’t tell me what song it was, but I handed him our little Hannah and he started to dance. And then the song started to play.

It was a song he’d played for many fathers and daughters to dance to over the years. It was a song that had made me cry every time I’d heard it after we found out we were expecting a girl. It was Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman.

As the notes began to play, tears fell down my face. You have no idea how beautiful it was to see Kyle Hess dance with our sweet girl. It broke my heart that our Hannah wouldn’t get to grow up with her daddy who loved her and treasured her so very much. He held her so tightly as he swayed around the room. And as the chorus hit, the words were all too true.

‘So I will dance with my Cinderella, while she is here in my arms… all too soon… she’ll be gone.’

At the end of the dance he kissed her. I had recorded the dancing, but I stopped and took a picture of him kissing her. His hands are so big holding her tiny little body, hands that loved her and tried so hard to protect her. That picture is the one I treasure the most, the one that makes my heart ache. To see a father’s love for his daughter, knowing she was already gone.

We put down the camera, and Kyle sat down beside me on the hospital bed and we held our baby girl. We decided, before her body was gone, we’d read her a Bible story. We thought about what story we would read, I suggested maybe the story of Hannah in the Bible, or maybe another. Then Kyle suggested the Christmas Story, because it was in fact, Christmas. So we looked up the story right from the gospels and we read her the story of the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Had things gone differently, I would have prayed for her as we read her the Christmas Story for the very first time. For the last nine months as I’d prayed to God so much that her soul would know him, would know his love, would know his grace, would know his sovereignty, and would accept the gift of his forgiveness and salvation without regard to her past. But as we read to her I realized, we didn’t have to pray for her any more. She was with Jesus, and she knew his love better than we’ll ever know this side of heaven.

And then it was time.

To give her away, I would need to get ready. For some reason, I wanted to be able to get up and walk her down to the nursery myself. But upon standing, I realized a walk to the nursery may have been more than I could bear both physically and emotionally. Kyle suggested I could get up and push her little bassinet on wheels all the way from my bed to the door of our room and the nurse could take her from there. For some reason I didn’t want to sit in bed while they ‘took’ her away, I wanted to ‘give’ her body to them. I would be ready, the Lord would be with me.

I changed into a fresh hospital gown and cleaned up a bit. I looked in the mirror and realized my hair was beyond repair, but I fixed it up a little anyways. I put on a little pomegranate lip balm and I was ready.

I held our baby girl and I made Kyle take one more picture of me holding her. And then we laid her down in her little bed. And together Kyle and I pushed our sweet Hannah all the way across the room. The door opened and the nurse came through and I wanted so badly to never let go of her bed. Then Kyle let go, and he offered me his hand so that I wasn’t left empty-handed, so that after letting go of Hannah I was left holding onto him.

The nurse covered Hannah’s face and took her away. And I held my husband and we cried. Our first and only child was really gone. I remember the day I bawled as we tried to choose a name for our baby girl months before. I was reading a ‘name test’ sentence, and it read ‘Do you Baby Girl Hess take this man…’ I had cried that day about the day we’d give her away to man that would marry her. In the last nine months I’d cried at the idea that someday she’d go away to college and I’d be left on the driveway waving goodbye with eyes full of tears. But this was surely harder, nothing I’d ever imagined, nothing I’d thought to prepare for. Giving away the baby girl you know you’ll never see again on this earth; it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I cannot imagine the bravery of the mothers that give away their living babies so they may have a better life. Those mothers must be so strong.

But there in that hospital room Kyle and I held each other. And then every step back to the bed was one of recovery. It was like I knew the Lord had our baby girl. There was nothing else she needed from me, and so I could again take care of myself. There would be a life for us after Hannah’s death and it began that moment.

I got in bed and I remembered what the doctor said. I wasn’t going home until I could use the bathroom, until I could standup without passing out or getting dizzy, and until I could eat and keep down the food. So like the dietitian that I am, I ordered a breakfast of scrambled eggs and fruit. I asked Kyle to fill my water cup, and we got to work.

We had a few friends come by that day. I am grateful for them. It was a reminder that even after all this we still had friends and family to go home to. We still had a life worth living. The Lord still had a purpose for our lives. If we were going to see the Lord’s glory in all of this, we’d need to be ready. I wanted to be ready for whatever the Lord had for us.

Hours later, after another meal and a few more trips to the bathroom, I was discharged. We packed up my things. We packed the snacks, the luggage, the flowers, the medical supplies. And I made sure to get our box. It was the box the hospital gave us that held Hannah’s footprints. It was our proof that she had once lived and I held onto it as if it was all we had.

They rolled me out of our room in a wheelchair, and the nurse so kindly took me the ‘short way,’ which I’m sure was code for ‘the way we can go without running into too many happy mothers with happy babies.’ I was rolled out into a world where other people had hurt, but where other people I’m sure wondered why we had been in the hospital, and why I was in a wheelchair. I put on my brave face and I held tightly to my little box and we got into our car that was supposed to be filled with our newborn baby.

It wasn’t how I had imagined our trip to the hospital would go. It wasn’t how I’d imagined our pregnancy would end. Mourning is not how I’d imagined I’d spend Christmas. I did not think I’d ever plan a funeral for one of our children. I never, ever imagined the story of our firstborn would have ended like this.

But God made sure that wasn’t the end of Hannah’s story. Her impact for the Lord did not end that day in that hospital. Our memories of sweet Hannah will one day bring us more joy than sorrow. In Hannah’s funeral we were reminded of how much good she has done for the Lord already. People come up to me daily and tell me how Hannah’s story has drawn them to the Lord and has somehow taught them of His goodness. Daily the Lord reveals himself to us in so many ways because of our sufferings, and Hannah did that. I know deep in my soul how true the promises of the Lord are, how true Romans 5 really is.

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who had been given to us.

We have truly known the Lord’s peace, we have rejoiced in his hope, we have known suffering that produces character, and the Lord has truly poured into our hearts his love. I feel we have been blessed beyond measure with the life and death of our sweet baby girl, Hannah Grace Hess. Eight pound 3 ounce, 21.5 inches long, our Hannah.

Taste and see that Lord is good.

Feb 5, 2014

My Favorite Part: The Story of Hannah Grace: Part Five

This part really is my favorite. I wish that I had better words, but there are not enough words to accurately or adequately describe the love and joy in that room when our daughter was born, even knowing there was no life left in her sweet little body. The words don't do it justice, but maybe they can give you a glimpse.

And again if this is the first part you're reading, you can find the first parts of Hannah's story here. I believe Part Six will be the last, but I guess we'll see.

My Favorite Part

This is the part that makes me smile every time. This isn’t one of those things that was sad when it happened but I can smile about now, this is one of those things that I smiled about the moment it was happening around us. There was nothing in that room but joy in these moments, and my words can hardly do them justice.  If I think about Hannah and I’m smiling there’s a good chance I’m remembering these times. This is my favorite part.

It was once again late at night but we’d come so far since the last night’s darkness. Somehow this darkness was more of a calm. In the late evening we told the visitors to get some rest and even the busy hospital felt calm and quiet. And thanks to the epidural and Jesus, it felt very peaceful. It was just me and Kyle and few others. And one little girl was on her way.

The doctor came in to check our progress and as she was checking she started with, ‘you’ve only got a little ways to go,’ but ended with ‘nope, you’re there, we’re ready to push when you are.’ And unlike the fear I’d had when we talked about breaking my water, there was an excitement in the room. We were finally getting to see our baby girl, we’d waited so long just to hold her and see her. Often we had wondered and guessed what she’d look like, who she’d look like, and we were so close. Although we knew her body would have no life left, we were still just so excited to see her.

In rolled a very large table with a number of shiny instruments. Immediately the doctor reassured me that we wouldn’t need all the instruments on the table, but that they were just always there. The nurse got the room ready and they turned on a little spotlight. And out of the corner of my eye I saw my friend Jill getting her camera ready.

Months before, Jill told us she’d be there to take pictures of our first moments with our baby girl: Kyle’s face when he first saw her, our first family picture, and pictures of me looking all sweaty and smiley as I held our sweet girl for the first time. She had no idea it would be like this, and we hated to ask her if she still wanted to take pictures even though Hannah had passed. But when she walked in the room earlier that day with her camera bag, I saw it, I saw her camera, and I was so grateful. We really are blessed, those are the only pictures I’ll have of our first baby girl and I’m glad she was there to capture them.

But as Jill stood back, the nurse hurried around the room. They got everything ready and it was really time to push. Kyle was on one side and the nurse on the other, and the doctor was ready to do the baby catching. And I was ready, I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. We’d read so many books, I made Kyle go through many childbirth lessons with me. Poor Kyle knew more awkward birth vocabulary than any man should probably have to know. And after all the reading and all the practicing, I wouldn’t get to breastfeed, I wouldn’t get to figure out newborn sleep schedules, I wouldn’t get to make baby food right in our own kitchen, but I did get to push and I was going to do that the best I could. They told me, just take a deep breath and push when I was having a contraction. I immediately asked, ‘is it okay if I take three breaths and then push?’ because that’s what it said in all my books. They agreed, I could do whatever I wanted. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted to take my three breaths and tuck my chin to my chest and hold my legs and push like I’d done all those exercises for! I was ready.

But then I couldn’t feel anything. 

I asked the doctor if she could tell if I was pushing. She said yes, but I don’t think I was doing much. The nurse poked my belly waiting for it to harden to tell me my next contraction was coming and we’d try to push again. Still I couldn’t feel because of the epidural and I prayed. This was all I had left, this was all I had left of being a mom for Hannah and I wanted to do it well. 

And then the third pushing contraction came and they didn’t have to tell me. I felt it. And I pushed and the doctor immediately told me it was a great push! I remembered what all the books said and I pushed. And Kyle was right there cheering me on. And although Jill seemed to disappear into the darkness beyond the spotlight, every once in a while I’d see her. And at that moment I saw her and she mouthed, ‘you’re doing great!’ And I believed her.

It’s crazy how I could feel Hannah on her way out. I knew exactly the moment she was out, I remember turning to Kyle saying ‘her head’s out I know!’ And then after the seventh pushing contraction, there she was, our beautiful perfect baby girl. 

Immediately they put her on my chest and I think that was the most joy I’ve ever felt in a room. The weight and warmth of our sweet baby girl on my chest was unreal. That is the moment I will always remember. If I need something lovely to fix my eyes on, I can think of what it felt like to have the weight of my baby girl on my chest and to hold her in my arms. I loved her at that moment more than I can ever imagine loving anyone I’d only just met. I kissed her head, her skin was so soft to my lips, and I held onto her so tightly.

She was perfect. I could finally hold her, touch her, smell her. I’ve never seen something so beautiful. Her tiny hands, her little feet, her sweet face, and that little nose. Oh it felt like she needed me, like she knew me, like I was holding the sweet baby girl I’d known inside for months. I stared into my husband’s eyes smiling because we did it. We gave birth to her, together. And Kyle looked back at me and said, ‘we should do this again sometime.’ I smiled, and I agreed. I could not stop smiling. And Kyle and I just kept looking at her every little part and smiling through tears and I know we said, ‘she’s so beautiful, she’s so perfect’ a million times. I could not stop touching her and counting her toes and being in awe of how beautiful she was, how perfect she was. The doctor looked at her and agreed, she was beautiful. Later I’d hear that the doctor was talking about Hannah and again said how beautiful she was, maybe someone made that up when they told me, but I’m a proud mama so I believe it.

In that moment my world really was perfect. It was me and my perfect husband and our perfect little girl and God’s love and joy filled that room with our little family. For a moment we didn’t think about how we’d lost our daughter, but we praised the Lord that we got to be her parents even if it was only for forty weeks. In that moment I looked up and I saw Jill in the darkness and she mouthed, ‘she’s beautiful.’ And my heart smiled because I was Hannah’s mom and I was so very proud to be her mom. She was in fact beautiful. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. She had my heart.

In reality she had a little bit of her daddy and a little bit of me in her. As we looked at her, Kyle said, ‘well she has your ears.’ I’m still not sure if that means I have very distinct ears, but I’ll take it. And then Kyle noticed that she had his lips. I looked at his lips and then back at her and I agreed, she most surely had his lips. So we continued on, she had my nose but a much cuter, smaller version that so cutely bounced back when we poked it. And she had her daddy’s hair. We’d talked about her hair from day one, would she have my blond hair or Kyle’s dark brown locks. I had told Kyle that I’d just always pictured my daughters having blond hair and that it only occurred to me once we were pregnant with Hannah that our daughters could have brown hair. Hannah had brown curly hair, it made me laugh just a bit; of course Kyle was right. But then we saw her toes and I will tell you those are the longest toes I’ve ever seen, they were perfect like little stair steps but they were long. Those are my toes. 

It was just so wonderful to stare at her in awe of how beautiful the Lord had made her. I don’t wonder too much about what she ‘would have’ looked like at two or five or sixteen because the Lord knew she’d never have a sixteen. There is no ‘what if’ as if there is an alternate universe or plan that would have happened had things gone differently. There is only this, the Lord’s plan. And he is good. And that helps my heart because I don’t sit for too long and think of who she ‘would have’ married as if some boy out there will be forever without a soul mate because something went wrong. There’s just God’s plan, this was his plan for our sweet girl.

At some time in all of the wonder, the doctor saw the knot in her umbilical cord. She looked at me and told us her suspicions earlier that night had been right, it was a true knot that took the life of our baby girl. She said, ‘there’s nothing you could have done.’ And immediately I felt such relief. A knot meant we couldn’t have caused it, we couldn’t have known in time to save her. A knot meant it wasn’t our fault. Jill later asked if I saw the knot after delivery and I told her no. I told her that I thought about asking to see it, but that if for some reason the doctor was lying to me to calm my soul I was okay with that. Jill told me she saw the knot, so I know it was there. But I didn’t have to see it to believe it.

She laid on my chest and I was her mother. I held her until they took her for just a moment to the other side of the room to clean her up a bit and they wrapped her up and they gave her back to us. And that’s when they asked if I would hold her, but I told them it was her dad’s turn. You wouldn’t believe how incredibly attractive Kyle Hess looked holding our baby in his arms. My dearest memories are of him holding our baby girl. I took the chance to tell the doctor and nurse how Hannah was such a daddy’s girl. I reminded Kyle of how she kicked the very most when he would call from Colorado, how she’d wiggle the most when he was around, how he’d tickle her toes and she’d kick back. He used to talk to her and say in a deep or cute or crazy voice “this is your daddy speaking!” Oh how he loved her.

After a few minutes, Jill came over and we took a few ‘family’ pictures. Our baby girl was so beautiful. Those pictures are all we’ll have as our memories fade. But after her very first photoshoot, we were proud parents and we were ready to show her off. 

My mom and dad never left. My poor dad was sleeping at times on the windowsill of the hallway because he was so tired, remember he came off the night shift and never even slept. But it was time for them to come meet their first granddaughter. They came in and I know I was smiling. I introduced them for the very first time using her new name, Hannah Grace Hess. I told them how heavy she was and asked if they wanted to hold her. And they did and I, like any momma would, grabbed my phone to take pictures. They both held her, but of course it was bittersweet because they were meeting her and saying goodbye to her in the very same moment. I wished so much that they too could hold her forever and would never have to say goodbye.

Then Kyle’s parents came in and I asked Kyle if he wanted to introduce her this time. You know, being her dad and all. Her name was Hannah Grace, although we had not chosen it before we arrived at the hospital. Before she had died we had narrowed down the name choices and Kyle wanted so badly for her to have a name to announce. But I just couldn’t name her yet, I couldn’t name her without seeing her first. But more than my reasons, I know it was the Lord. The Lord knew she didn’t need a name that was cute or trendy or compatible with a number of potential future last names, but that she needed a name that told her story. At one point during the induction the nurse asked us if she had a name, and we realized that we’d need to choose one for her. Kyle had mentioned before that he liked the name Grace, especially after all that was happening. So I typed the meaning ‘grace’ into my baby name app on my phone and scrolled through the names. 

Then I saw the name Hannah. And I stopped. And I cried. I knew that was the name the Lord had for our sweet baby girl. And I pulled Kyle over and I looked up the full meaning of Hannah. Hannah means gracious, merciful, the one who gives. We still believe the Lord is gracious and merciful. We still believe that the Lord blesses us and blessed us by giving us Hannah even if only for a moment. Hannah means favor or ‘God has favored me.’ And we truly believe even in all of this, that the Lord has shown us favor. We are not the red-headed-step-child because our baby didn’t live, but we are blessed, so very blessed. And when people think of our baby girl we didn’t want them to think of tragedy, we didn’t want them to blame the Lord. But when people think of Hannah I want them to praise the Lord, for He is good, he has truly shown us favor.

So Kyle introduced Hannah Grace Hess to his parents as they held her for the first and last time. It was so wonderful to get to see him for a few moments be a proud dad. Oh he is a wonderful husband, but he is also a phenomenal dad. Next, our dear friends Angie and Skeet came in to meet our girl. I remember Jill’s husband Clinton standing back and I called him over by saying, ‘Clinton you didn’t see my beautiful baby yet?’ I remember being such a proud mom, showing her off the way grandparents pull out photos from every year of their grandchildren’s lives and corner people in the grocery store as they tell their stories. Clinton came over and I laughed a bit and joked saying ‘I guess she was just too beautiful for your boys,’ as our Hannah would have been born into a world of baby boys around our small town. But our friends didn’t get to hold her, although I wouldn’t have minded, but after giving her away a few times all I could do was hold her tight. I knew I’d have to let her go all too soon, so I cherished every moment. And it’s fitting that the only ones to hold her, other than the hospital staff, were her parents and her grandparents. She was so very loved.

After her introductions they took her to the nursery to weigh her, to measure her, to dress her, and to make sure she was nice and clean. When they said they were taking her I made sure they’d be bringing her back and immediately I asked if Kyle could go with her. It was there that Kyle realized that she had his barrel chest, I didn’t quite believe him, but we’ve surely got the pictures to prove it. I’ve never seen a bigger chest on a baby, just like her dad.

As we laid Hannah in her bassinet I got very nauseous. After delivery they offered me food for the first time in ages and I took advantage. I drank two cups of orange juice. I drank two cups of grape juice. And then I drank 4 and half more cups of orange juice. I may have overdone it but it was so good, so cold, so refreshing. I believe it was the cause of my nausea. The nurses tried to give me medicine but it didn’t work. I guess the adrenaline from the birth was wearing off because I became incredibly tired. I tried so hard to lay my head down, but laying it down the slightest bit made me extremely nauseous. I felt as if I was stuck; my nausea wouldn’t let me sleep and my tired body couldn’t control the nausea. The nurse tried to offer more medications, but I didn’t want them. Then she offered a warm shower, she had no idea the laughs she was offering us.

Warm showers have been a staple in my life since about 30 weeks or so. I loved so much laying down in a hot bath or standing under the warm shower when my body ached from pregnancy. I was taking hot baths so frequently that I worried if the baths exceeded the recommended water temperature for pregnant women and so I kept our meat thermometer in the bathroom to monitor my baths. So when the nurse offered a warm shower I was ready.

I stood up and I was pretty good on my feet as I walked to the shower. That is, until the orange juice returned. I immediately threw up, oh, it came with a vengeance. Kyle grabbed the little bucket and I watched nine and half cups of juice come right back up. I was glad though, it felt a little better. Then just like nothing happened, we proceeded to the shower.

The hot water was wonderful. I sat in the shower chair and I was ready to stay forever. They gave me the handheld showerhead and I must have got a little crazy. I looked up and realized that I’d gotten the nurse’s shoes all wet. I looked at Kyle’s and they looked just the same. I quickly apologized as I realized that the nurse probably had other patients to attend to and here I was wasting her time monitoring my shower. I realized I was taking quite a long time so I looked at the nurse and said “thank you for helping me shower.” And Kyle was trying to be a comedian and said, ‘you’re welcome.’ And I remember sweetly looking back at him and saying, ‘no, not you,’ in the sweetest ever wife voice.

But this is where the story divides. It wasn’t until I was telling the story to some of our friends when Kyle stopped me, and corrected me. Apparently I didn’t sound like a sweet loving wife. See this entire time I thought I was this sweet exhausted damsel in distress. Apparently I sounded like a crazy old drunk man. Kyle said I was sloshing my words around and when I replied it was a very snappy and sloshy ‘no! not you!’ Apparently it was quite entertaining.

I remember realizing the shower was getting a little too hot, but not wanting to tell anyone because it felt so nice. Then kind of like when you’re in the shower too long and get a little lightheaded because it’s so hot and realize you need to get out. Yep. I was there. I remember being seated and ‘waking back up’ and thinking that I was so tired I had fallen asleep for a half second like I had many times in my physics class in high school. You know, the head jerk that wakes you up just as you’re falling asleep in class. Apparently that was not the case. Kyle explained that I was standing up and then passed out cold. He caught me and then he and the nurse set me down in the chair, and then I woke up. Eventually we made it back to bed. We laugh when we tell ‘the story about the shower’ and people ask if we laughed when it was actually happening. I was too exhausted to laugh, but Kyle answers that it was hilarious the entire time.

They got me into bed and before dosing off I asked the nurses if Hannah could stay in the room with us. I knew that they often don’t want the baby to be left unattended as both parents fall asleep, but because our little girl didn’t technically need to be watched I hoped they would make an exception. And they did. We put her in her little bassinet right next to my bed, right between my bed and Kyle’s little couch bed. I felt like we needed to spend a night with her, and I needed to have her close, really close, like any mother would want their baby close.

And then we slept. For what seemed like the first time in ages we slept. At least for a couple hours. Soon the morning nurse would come and wake me to draw my blood as the sun began to threaten to rise. Once I was awake I needed to hold our baby girl. So I pulled her out of her bassinet and I held her and I just cried.

As I was holding her our nurse came in and I had a question. Since Hannah died before she was born, did she still have a birthday, was today her date of birth? And she smiled and she said yes as she slipped quietly out of the room. And then I realized I didn’t know what the date even was. I pulled out my phone and opened the calendar and it said December 17th. And that’s when I saw it. Right at the bottom of the screen the only appointment listed said “Predicted Due Date.” I had forgotten all about it.

Our calculated due date from the doctor was originally December 12th, and our adjusted due date once they measured her at 6 weeks was December 24th. But before any of that I had somehow calculated a due date and didn’t even remember putting it into my phone. But as I looked down and saw that “predicted due date” it was like the Lord was reminding me that he knew. That he knew what would happen this entire time. The Lord reminded me about how he is sovereign and he is good and he still had us get pregnant even though he knew this would happen. I remembered my God and how he has beautiful ways to show us his love even when we don’t understand. He knew. And somehow, that made me smile and it made me cry as I held my sweet baby girl as the morning came. Soon we’d have to give her back and I wanted to hold her just a bit longer.

And those are the moments I think about, they bring a smile to my face. I miss our sweet girl every day, sometimes it seems like every moment. But when I remember how she felt, how soft her skin was when I kissed her, I remember the Lord’s goodness. The Lord is good, and he works all things together for good. 

Even our sweet girl Hannah Grace.

Especially our sweet girl Hannah Grace.

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