February 29th, 2020, leap day or to us any other typical Saturday. I woke up and made breakfast and then we were headed to Cars and Coffee like we do every Saturday morning. After breakfast, I sat on the couch to see if Whitley would move around and play with me.

I waited about 30 minutes and then expressed my concerns to my husband when I didn’t feel her move around, we decided to skip Cars and Coffee and just stay home. An hour passed by and she still wasn’t moving so we decided to go for a walk to see if that would wake her up. We drove to the beach and didn’t walk more than maybe 50 yards. I felt uneasy and started having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions. We drove back home, and I called my doctor who suggested I head into the nearest emergency room.

We drove 20 minutes to the nearest hospital where the ER staff warmly greeted us asking if it’s time to have the baby. They wheeled us up to labor and delivery, placed us in a room and a nurse instructed me to change into a gown and lie on the bed. She came back in shortly after and tried to find her heartbeat.

No words were spoken, but she looked for what seemed like forever. My husband and I made eye contact and immediately knew something was wrong. The nurse hurried off to get the doctor. Shortly after, the on-call doctor came in, did another ultrasound, and almost immediately said those six words no parent ever wants to hear, “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”

I screamed, “No, you’re wrong! Are you sure?” She reconfirmed our worst fears and told us to take as much time as we need. We immediately called home (my husband is in the military and we’re stationed 1,400 miles away from our families) and asked everyone we knew to start praying for us. Praying for a miracle.

Praying just to survive.

I asked my husband to go get the doctor so I could ask her what was next. I needed a plan. I wanted to control what I had no control over. She told me I had to deliver her. The same person who told me my baby had died was now telling me that I also had to deliver her. She can’t take my baby from me! I didn’t want to have to deliver her. I thought if I could keep her inside of me, if I could just keep carrying her then maybe she’d be okay. But I had no choice.

Both our mom’s booked the first flight they found but it didn’t leave until the next morning. We made the decision to go home and be induced the next evening once our moms arrived.

That night I sat in her nursery and cried for the baby that I knew I wouldn’t bring home…

All on its own, my body was preparing itself to deliver our daughter. I lost my mucus plug that night and thought I should try to get some rest. I lay down, with my contractions coming two minutes apart. My hip started to ache and I thought that maybe if I rolled over, I’d be more comfortable. Before I rolled, I hesitated because I just felt that my water was going to break if I moved. I don’t know why I thought that it’s like God whispered to me and told me it was going to happen. I decided to go ahead and roll over, and as soon as I did my water broke. I looked at my phone, it’s just past 11 p.m., I nudged my husband to told him what had happened. He flew out of bed ready to take care of me. My heart hurt knowing that what was supposed to be the best day of our lives is now the worst.

When we arrived at the hospital, the ER staff eagerly greeted us again, not knowing what we knew…

It’s now midnight on March 1st; they put a purple heart on our door signaling that we’d lost a child. Everyone who came in tiptoed around me not knowing what to say. Our nurse explained the process and how everything would work. What she didn’t explain was how I was going to get through this. I told her I wanted to have a natural birth (no medication) and she asked, “Are you sure?” I said, “If this is my fault in any way and I caused this, I want to feel the pain.” So she let me labor with no medication. Every nurse after her asked the same thing.

For the next 17 hours, my husband never left my side. He was my hands and my feet. He physically moved me when I couldn’t because of the grief and exhaustion. I’d never seen the love of Jesus more than through the man I love on that day and the weeks that followed.

Our moms arrived at 11:30 a.m. that morning and as soon as they walked through the door we hugged, sat, and cried together; for our broken hearts, for our daughter, for our mothers/new grandmothers, for the life that we had imagined.

My doctor came in around 3:30 p.m., checked my cervix, and said, “It’s time to push!”. The staff hurried around the room getting everything set up. The pain was so intense that they had to physically put my legs up in the bed in order to push. While I labored long, my delivery was very quick. I pushed three times and out she came at 3:59 p.m. Part of me thought they had got it wrong, that she would come out crying, but she didn’t. Silence filled the room.

Whitley Grace was born 3 pounds, 15 ounces, and 18 inches long, so perfect in every way. They told me I could go home that night but I chose to stay. I wanted to spend every minute I could with my baby. I didn’t sleep much. I woke up often, confused, and not knowing where I was. I soon remembered and all of the emotions came back while I lay there crying.

The next day we spent the morning with worship music on, singing to our daughter, rocking her, cleaning her up ever so gently, and taking many pictures that we’ll have to look back on.

We miss her so much but we find comfort in knowing that the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was the face of Jesus. I love you, Whitley Grace.

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