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.


  1. Brittany,

    I've never met you but through family Facebook pages I've been praying for you and Kyle often. I just finished reading the story of Hannah grace... Beautiful. She is the most blessed little girl to have parents as loving as you two. While I can't even begin to imagine the heart wrenching grief you've experienced in this valley, I am so amazed of how you have endured. You turned tragedy into a testimony by the grace of our Lord. Hannah's story will forever remain etched in the hearts of those who know her. You have written a beautiful narrative of her journey and you will always have that to cherish and read again and again. I cannot wait to meet your sweet daughter in heaven, completely perfect in every way!

    David and I continue praying for you, Kyle, and your families, that God would continue to be gracious and merciful to uphold you.You are making such a huge impact for His kingdom. Thank you for bravely sharing your story.

    Much love from Indiana,
    Kelsey Harmer

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