There are so, so many countless experiences that I've had- that never make it on this little family blog. Some I want to share so badly, but I error on the side of caution when those stories involve vulnerabilities of those I love; I never want to share a story that doesn't belong to me. Or bring hurt and pain to anyone not ready to open it to others.
Two years have passed since this particular experience, and with my friend's blessing and encouragement, I've decided to share my story of meeting Annabelle.
When my awesome friend Gina discovered she and her hubby were having a sweet baby girl (#3) we did what girlfriends do.
We began a "secret" pinterest board :) Such a girl thing-right? Plan a party!
There was a couple concerning things on the ultrasound, but nothing that held too much weight. I'd had similar readings on ultrasounds and we all know that those pesky tests & ultrasounds are a blessing and can be a curse of worry too.
I asked Gina if I could throw her a "sprinkle"- which is not a full shower but just a celebration of this precious new addition. And so we pinned. And I pinned some more. I found sprinkle cakes, sprinkle decor, sprinkles of everything delightful. I was giddy with excitement, as I love me a celebration of new life. Planned a photo session of three sweet little girls, how much fun will that be?!
A few weeks went by. I got a call from Gina that things on that ultrasound had not progressed well. Not at all as any of us were expecting.
After another call, late one evening from Gina's husband, the news wasn't what we were believing for. I barely slept at all that night. I drove to the hospital to meet them the next morning. I cried all the way there, the drive was a blur. I don't remember even parking the car, as I walked into the entry with tears pouring from my eyes. A nurse approached me, and I whispered which room I was looking for. I do remember clearly, she put her head down- arm around me and walked with me, telling me that it was her first day working there. She said "do you pray"? And I told her that I did indeed pray, I'd been doing it ceaselessly for this family and I'd also been praying that I could do what was in front of me to do. I told her I'd been planning this baby girl's upcoming shower and wasn't equipped to deal with the devastating future. She said softly "I'll help you find their room and I'll also pray with you". We walked down a long corridor and I felt terrified, like I was in a movie.
And then, as quickly as that nurse appeared, she was gone as Gina's parents approached me.
"Annabelle's just beautiful" gently spoken as true doting grandparents.
I proceeded into the delivery room to meet this precious girl they'd named Annabelle Grace.
And beautiful she was.
10 fingers and 10 tiny toes.
She had her older sister, Mylee's adorable lips, and resembled her oldest sister Cadence, with her little nose. I hugged Gina & Ryan as they thanked me for coming to take Annabelle's photos.
A delivery room should never be a place of loss.
But that morning of Feb 15 it was for my dear friends.
An ultrasound revealed that Annabelle's heart had stopped. This perfect little girl would be delivered into the world by my brave friend who would never be able to take her home. I remember just staring at Annabelle, she was so beautiful in every way.
It was just the 4 of us in that little space of the hospital but I completely felt like I was in a different world.
There was an unexplainable unbelievably thick spirit of peace in that room.
The heaviness that I had felt going in, immediately lifted as I walked through the doors.
I can't even put into words the surreal feeling but I didn't need to with Ryan and Gina, they were swept up into it as well.
The nurses had brought in some special outfits and I documented many gifts they'd be able to do but once- her daddy bathed her carefully and placed a tiny diaper on her for photos. We spoke quietly and even smiled of her familiar features, her incredible and peaceful delivery into the world, and how God had picked up and carried Ryan and Gina all the way to the point we were standing.
An hour passed almost like one second.
I left Annabelle's delivery room, knowing we had captured the essence of how precious and loved she is.
As strong as my desire was to not enter that room, even more strong was my desire to now stay. But I knew their time with Annabelle was slipping away, and it was my cue to go.
The minute I walked into the outside parking lot, I smelled the fresh spring air, felt the warm sunshine and something (what was that weight?) hit me like a ton of bricks.
That beautiful spirit that carried me all the way through Annabelle's photos, was not with me (or I just didn't feel it) as I pulled onto the freeway and cried all the way home. I remember (crazy as it sounds) that I was angry all these people are just going on with their lives, as if my friend's world hadn't just stopped? It isn't logical or legitimate but that was my thought process.
Life for Ryan and Gina changed in every way possible, following the loss of Annabelle. I would like to say that it was a gentle transition without her. But life for them was an uphill climb for awhile- leading into their new season. It got downright ugly for awhile. Not being able to ease the pain of those you love, that is the heartbreaking exchange of friendship. "Difficult" didn't scratch the surface of what their family dealt with. However, they displayed a new picture of "strong" as it seemed that from their foundation - on up, things were being stripped away.
As one season led into another, however, I watched them courageously rebuild their mindsets and soon their lives- from career to faith to family.
With an abundance of courage and transparency, my friend has recently begun a project called
Anyone who's ready to face their past, who's needing compassion for the struggle they're in, and/or who's excited to embrace the future - should consider subscribing to Gina's blog
Gina's perspective is from someone who "gets it". She starts from the beginning of her journey and works her way into the present. Her writing is raw and relevant and I'm so proud of her. "I am Crowned" is a journey that she's been brave enough to bring into social media and the blogging world, in hopes that others may find healing and compassion.
As for me, I'll never thank God enough for NOT answering my prayer, which was "please let Gina change her mind of having me in Annabelle's delivery room". Yes, I'm shamefully admitting that I didn't think I had the fortitude to be there. I was confident I couldn't, at first.
How many of us, won't do the hard things asked of us, because it's easier to put our heads in the sand- get busy doing nothing, and deny God the opportunity to show up for us.
Maybe when it counts the most?
I will forever have a connection with that beautiful little girl, perfectly named Annabelle Grace.
I will forever look at motherhood differently than I did before Feb 15.
Holding Annabelle and walking through the grief with her family, made my perspective shift from temporary and short-term to eternal.
The big picture is one that I don't do perfectly, but I see more often than not. It makes me more patient, compassionate, and it helps me to shift my priorities to family and relationships. They will always come before "stuff" and "busy work". Yes my perspective has changed in so many ways since that day, and I know that I will be forever grateful to be included in this family's journey.
As Annabelle celebrates her second birthday in heaven, I remember in detail this beautiful experience, full of heartbreak- so much heartbreak.
But also brimming with an undeniable redemption.
And inspirational re-building.
I remember to pray for Annabelle's family, especially her momma, who is missing her so very much- this weekend more than others. I hope you'll join me in that prayer and I hope that whatever you're currently walking through, you always remember you're not alone in your struggle or circumstances. Often people never share or even utter a word of heartache they're dealing with. We hide it behind smiles and titles and agendas, even good ones.
So what if we could all look past that and love each other despite whether we feel it's "deserved" or not?
Everyone has their own brokenness, known as the human experience.
It's what we do with all of that hurt.
How we find the strength and faith to rebuild;
that's what really living is about.
That's what Annabelle has taught me.
Look closer, dig past the surface,
that strength is in you.
and that hope is there.
It's always there.
Happy Birthday, sweet Annabelle Grace.