Choosing Heaven

For most people, June 11th, 2007 came and went without any special notice. It was just another Monday with its normal daily commutes; people soaking up the sun’s rays on the California beaches, while cab drivers honked ferociously at jay walkers in New York City. However for me, it was the day that time stood still as I had to make the decision of whether or not to allow my daughter to die. At nearly twenty-three weeks pregnant and my third time in labor, little Kylie was coming into the world, ready or not.

My husband was speeding his way to the hospital, and every contraction became stronger than the last. I had to make a decision no parent ever wants to make. Do I choose to have an ambulance rush me and my unborn child to a hospital in another state thirty minutes away in hopes that they can sustain her life, knowing that I could deliver any minute and possibly die from the pregnancy complications I’d been facing? Do I allow her to be born now and accept that the doctors at this hospital can do nothing for her? Do I allow my daughter to potentially live a life of severe disability, brain damage, deafness, blindness, and possible vegetative conditions with only a respirator to help her breathe? Or, do I allow her to go peacefully into the arms of Jesus, opening her eyes for the very first time in the presence of the King? Feeling as though I had to do something proactive, I signed the papers to allow my care to be transferred to another facility.

With the ambulance staff heading to my room, the pressure intensified both physically and emotionally. I cried out to my Lord saying, “God, if the end result is going to be the same, let us have her here and now.” The very moment I finished praying, my contractions went from two minutes to thirty seconds and my husband rushed through the door. The pain was so intense and by now my doctor verified that our baby girl was completely in the birth canal and could feel her head just a fingertip away. He had told me that if I would allow him to break my water, she would most likely just slip out. She was so tiny that it didn’t even matter if she came out head first; but still I could not bring myself to make this decision. I looked at my husband pleading with my eyes to give me some kind of hope; yet at this point, the inevitable was looming. We were about to deliver our child and I needed to accept that this was our reality. One more intensely painful contraction later, I was a mother making the decision to break the life support for my daughter, allowing her to come into this world all too soon.

Kylie Joy never opened her eyes. She never made a sound. She never knew pain or suffering. She would never know heartbreak; though our hearts were completely torn in two! She was a beautifully perfect little baby with every single tiny body part in place as if handcrafted by a doll maker. Her legs were long and so thin that my wedding ring nearly fit over her foot and would have gone clear up her thigh if it had! Although her eyes were still fused shut, every little detail of her precious body was perfectly formed. Her ears, her lips, her nose, her miniature hands and feet–they were all flawless. She even had a few little tufts of brown hair on top of her head!

As I studied every feature; every detail of my precious daughter’s body, Psalm 139 crossed my mind. “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. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV)

An overwhelming peace came over me as her pulse and respirations slowed down. Her earthly death would only be the beginning of her life in eternity. My husband held our daughter for a precious moment of daddy/daughter time and then handed her back to me. I tried to locate any trace of a pulse or heartbeat in our sweet little girl. I began to panic, for I couldn’t feel anything. I wasn’t ready for her to die. I spoke to her again to tell her how much I loved her and to let her know that it was okay to go to Jesus. She turned her head towards me one last time as if to tell me that she understood and that it was okay for me to let her go. A few minutes later, one of my nurses walked back into the room and asked if she could bathe and change Kylie. Reluctantly, I handed her our daughter knowing that she had just passed away in my arms. As the nurse walked away, she quietly declared Kylie dead at 2:40 p.m. — a brief hour and seventeen minutes after I gave birth to her.

I don’t know the reason that God allowed Kylie to be born too early to survive. It is definitely not what I would have preferred. But through this devastation, I found myself at a crossroad — I had to choose what I was going to do with this difficult and painful circumstance. Was I going to allow her short life and death to become a stumbling block for me? Or would I choose to allow God to heal me and look at this trial as a stepping stone for ministry? I could not have changed the inevitable or the past, but I did have the power to choose my reaction for the present and future.

I chose Heaven! Not only did I choose to allow my daughter to go to Jesus, but I chose to allow my Heavenly Father to be my Healer, Comforter, Lord and Savior. Too many times in our lives I feel that we miss opportunities to share our faith, our testimonies, or our life struggles with others because we are so caught up in our own anger, frustration and pity parties. And it is so easy to do. We cry out, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” We look at other’s lives and wish to switch places with them, the seemingly “perfect ones”; unaware of the heavy burdens they too carry. We fail to recognize, or perhaps accept that there is no immunity from these types of hurts and pains. However, we do live in an imperfect world and therefore imperfect things happen.

Through this journey (not that it is complete); I found God’s grace so abundant, especially when I didn’t deserve it. I stood in awe of God as He brought people into our lives that encouraged, strengthened and loved us through this harrowing journey. And I learned that we can easily miss the fingerprints of God in and through our lives when we choose to focus on ourselves.

However, when we recognize that our trials can become a part of God’s molding process, we enable Him to use our deepest wounds to touch the lives of those around us. God is all about relationships. So much so, that He sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins so that we may have a personal relationship with Him. What an amazing impact we can have on someone else’s life after we’ve have walked in their shoes, have felt the same emotions; shed the same tears. We can build a rapport with people in similar circumstances that only those that have suffered the same journey can truly understand. What incredible ministry opportunities and peace lie before us when we allow Christ to heal our brokenness and in turn learn to open ourselves up to what God wants to do in the lives of other people through our own human weakness!

To read more about Kylie’s story, see: No footprint too small.

Updated July 2, 2011: Our experience with Kylie has given birth to an eBook, Good Grief! available only on my blog that journey’s through how family and friends can come alongside their loved ones experiencing this unimaginable pain. To learn more, please click here!

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About Erica

I am a child of God through Jesus Christ, a wife to my Prince Charming and a mom of two amazing children. I am the Author of Good Grief!, a Resource Guide filling in the gap between people who are hurting that don't know what they need and their loved ones that don't know how to help. This book is based on my experience as a 3 time cancer survivor, who has also journeyed through the loss of 5 children. I challenge the Christian line, "God will not give you more than you can handle" because I believe that God will allow us to be stretched beyond our human capabilities in order to show us our need for Him, to deepen our faith and to show us that HIS strength is limitless!
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29 Responses to Choosing Heaven

  1. Melanie says:

    Just beautiful, Erica. I see the peace that He has given you and am overjoyed that you will be able to see Kylie again!

  2. Steve Akers says:

    I am overwhelmed by your story of extreme grief and ultimate joy. Thank you for sharing it with us. You are truly a source of encouragement and inspiration.

    Your story reminds of the message delivered during our worship service this past Sunday. The sermon asserted that our lives should reflect the attitude shown by David as he defeated the giant Goliath. The idea being that the things we struggle with in our lives represent battles fought against our own giants.

    David said in 1 Samuel 17:26, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” Later in verse 45 & 46 he says, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you.” And finally we read in verse 48 that David ran quickly into battle.

    This is exactly what you did when faced with your giant. Your giant was mighty and powerful and would strike fear in the hearts of even the mightiest and most faithful among us. Your giant should have paralyzed and defeated you, but you were like David. You said, “Who are you grief, anguish, and suffering to threaten a disciple of the living God? You come to me with despair over the loss of my child, but I come to you with a peace that passes understanding. I come to you with the assurance of an eternal weight of glory graciously given to me by my Healer, Comforter, Lord, and Savior. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and your defeat will be a source of encouragement to all who hear it.”

    Thank you Erica for running quickly into battle, slaying your giant, and sharing with us the power that God has displayed in your life.

    • Erica says:

      Thanks for your kind words Steve – it has certainly been a long, difficult process – many ups and downs, especially that first year; times where I struggled to see God, yet tried to remain faithful.

      But, God is good and I don’t believe He desires to waste any circumstance. =)

  3. Andrea Sigley says:

    Your story touched me deeply. Just a week before Christmas 2004, my family and I lost our 14 month old little boy. His biological father had caused our little boy severe head trauma. The decision to take him off life support was heart wrenching, despite knowing he had been brain dead for 3 days. As I settled into the grief and the “auto pilot” of planning his funeral and trying to make Christmas “normal” for our other kids all at the same time was bizarre. After Christmas, we held our little boy’s funeral and after it was over, life began without the distractions that had made the previous two weeks more bearable. I could never had imagined when our little boy was born that we would not have much time with him, nor could I have ever imagined losing him in such a violent way. Less than a year later, a jury found his birth father not guilty and I found myself (again) faced with the choice of letting God work through these circumstances and through me or asking God WHY? Though I find myself asking why on occasion, I choose to let God show His glory through this and I choose to trust that God has a plan and I need to let Him show me it, in His time. He is a great God who gave us a beautiful boy, if only for a little while. How can I not be thankful to Him?

    • Erica says:

      That is an amazing story Andrea. Thank you for sharing.

      When I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1999, I think I fell a little bit into the category that felt it was disrespectful to ask God, “why”. I figured He’s God and I’m not and sometimes this is just the way things are. A few years later when I relapsed, I found myself on a very different journey. I was pretty angry and found comfort in the Psalms. There wasn’t a specific Psalm I could point to, but I found it awesome that even though these Psalms are sometimes just straight out anger sessions, God still chose to include them. He showed me that He is big enough (and personal enough) to handle any laments from me and that is was okay! =)

      I cannot imagine the pain you bear with your son’s birthfather’s choices, but I know the God we trust is BIGGER than your circumstances and I am encouraged by your response! =)

  4. joanne sharp says:

    Wow, an amazing example of peace with God. I heard today that you will speaking at my MOPS group in two weeks and I just can’t wait to hear your story!

  5. Wow…you are truly blessed. I know you have a beautiful angel watching over you. One of the best and most treasured yet hardest moments, was holding one of my 23 weeker twins (Nick), as he was dying. He fought and fought for 2.5 days and his little lungs just couldn’t fight any longer. We got to hold him. Tell him we loved him and that it was alright to go. God I miss my little guy. His twin brother is now 3.5 (almost 4) and has several problems from mod.-severe hearing loss, chronic lung disease, developmentally delayed, mild CP, mild autism, non verbal, a feeding tube because he has feeding issues and failure to thrive and also epilepsy. Every day we see a miracle before us. The doctors told us that he’d never walk…but he is. We chose to do everything in our power to keep both babies alive…a choice that we decided…one that was right for us. After losing Nick, we had 129 days in the NICU along with everything up until today that is going on with Kenny. He is perfect in our eyes. God has blessed us with a child with disabilities from being born too early. Something that I did not want to happen and scared with the outcome. Please know that your story has brought much love, compassion and understanding of what has happened to you. May God watch over you. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful angel.

    • Erica says:

      Michele,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I love your outlook and agree that it is so great to know that those of us that believe in Jesus, will one day we will be reunited with our little ones. I love how David explains in the Old Testament that he knows he will recognize his infant son that died and how he longed to see him once again. Hard to imagine how I will be able to distinguish my daughter from other little girls born too soon – but, that’s why I’m not God! =) What a sweet gift you have in Kenny!

  6. Katie Power says:

    Erica,
    You continue to help me realize the amazing love of God. Thank you for your vulnerablity and disclosure of your hurt and healing. Thank you for this blog!
    God is using you in His heavenly plan. I pray that His Kingdom continues to be glorified by you!
    Katie

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  9. Marion says:

    i choose to be in Heaven .. :)) HEAVEN is a place of happiness and no tears ..

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  13. Sheryl Smith says:

    I am new to the groups in here and I completely related to you. I am so sorry that you had to go through this as well. I too have found my peace and comfort in God, which has made this alot more tolerable. I have learned to not question his plan…he obviously had another plan for us. I want to share my story. I am so glad that we all can be a support system to one another. It definitely helps to know that I have somewhere to go and talk. My boyfriedn has been amazing throughout our tough time. He truely has been my rock and I know that God smiled on us both when he made our path cross. I pray that you continue to make peace. I am thinking of you.

    Here is our story:

    Last Wednesday on June 14 at 7:38 p.m. I gave birth to a baby boy who we named Maurice Jerome Henderson. I was only 18 weeks, 3 days into my pregnancy. I suffered from Preterm PROM. I went into the hospital on June 12 as I was wiping blood and became scared. It was discovered during my exam that my cervix was irritated and they weren’t to concerned about the bleeding. Well they performed an ultrasound and an OB from my office came in and did it again, and relayed to me that she was concerned because there was absolutely no amniotic fluid in my sac. We were puzzled b/c I never felt my water break. They admitted me and ran IV’s to try and see if the fluid would build back up. A high tech US was scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday. To our dismay, there wasn’t any change. Normally the baby would move during previous US, but this time no movement, although his HB was 175 BPM and baby measured out perfectly to match the growth. Our options were not good since the baby was not at a viable stage in pregnancy. It was discovered on Tuesday that I was 3 cm dilated and I had begun to get an infection. We had made our decision on Monday night on what we were going to do, but God had a different plan. I made the last minute decision to induce and as I mentioned, gave birth. I have never been thru such a traumatic and devastating ordeal, besides my mom’s passing 2 years ago. So I sympathize with each and every one of you. At my 13 week US, my fluids were at a normal level. So somewhere inbetween then and 18 weeks, something went wrong. I have learned not to question and ask why, for those answers will never be obtained. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.

    • Erica says:

      Wow Sheryl, thanks so much for sharing your story. Great to hear that you have a great support system – I would have been lost without my husband! =) Keep sharing your story and talking to others – there are so many women out there afraid to do so – but, it can be so healing for others as well! =)

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