Neither Death nor Life
By: Melissa Kirsch
The Breath of Life
On February 13th, 2014, my firstborn Audrey Lynn was delivered at only 24 weeks gestation. This was the day I became a mother. I was completely overwhelmed with the love that I felt for Audrey. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was beautiful. The NICU team was in the room and took her to their station to begin working on her. I couldn’t see her, but Chris could see her tiny leg. It wasn’t moving.
Genesis 1 filled his mind. The earth was formless and void until God breathed His Spirit and brought forth life. Chris prayed for God to breathe that same Spirit into Audrey. At that moment Chris saw Audrey’s leg begin to kick like crazy. All of her limbs were moving! She was full of life and we were grateful. God was in that room with us.
Unfortunately, the hospital I delivered Audrey in did not have a NICU capable of caring for Audrey, so she was taken by ambulance to a hospital a couple miles down the road which was able to care for her complex needs. Initially, Audrey was relatively stable. We learned she had an infection but were assured that they were treating it with antibiotics. The following day I received a call from the neonatologist that Audrey had taken a turn for the worse and I needed to get to her as soon as possible. The hospital I was in did not give “travel passes,” so I had to wait to be officially discharged. Finally, we packed up our bags in a scramble and raced to Audrey.
When we got into her room, Chris and I stood on opposite sides of her and slipped our hands into her isolette. Her tiny hands immediately gripped onto our fingertips tightly. We were told these machines were no longer able to keep her alive and that time was short. Our family came and gathered around us and our daughter. We prayed, sang songs, read scriptures to her, and gazed at the tiny soul that had tremendously changed us in such a short amount of time.
We had the opportunity to hold her before she passed. Honestly, I was afraid to. I knew that, unless God intervened, holding her would be the end. I was unsure that my heart could handle her passing in my arms. This, however, was the most motherly thing I could do for her— to wrap her up, hold her close, and let her feel secure as she left this world. God was doing the same for me, wrapping me in His love and peace. Audrey passed after just a few short minutes of me holding her.
As I gazed at her perfectly formed being, I kept waiting for God to breathe life back into her like He did when she was born. This time, the breath of life didn’t come.
We spent a couple of hours there at the hospital with Audrey. Someone from the bereavement team came in and asked if she could take some photographs for us. At the time it felt like a strange thing to do, but today I am grateful for those photos.
We left the hospital in a daze. The following day was bleak. I was experiencing a lot of physical pain so I spent most of the day in bed. Worse than my physical pain was the crushing weight of my grief. This was a new degree of heartache for me. It was heavy and it was dark. I wondered whether this is how I would feel the rest of my life. I didn’t know how to recover from losing my child.
Waves of Grace
Several days after Audrey had passed, for reasons I didn’t know, I felt lighter. Chris felt the same way. We later found out that our church had just finished praying for us. We felt lighter because our brothers and sisters in Christ were bearing our burden by interceding for us in prayer. As a result we felt some of the weight of that crushing grief come off our shoulders for a moment. This gave me hope that I would not feel this heavy forever.
Over the next several weeks, grief came in waves. On a particularly difficult day, I was playing music on my phone and came across a song I had never heard before. I checked my phone to read the song title and it read “I Will Carry You (Audrey’s song)” by Selah. I have listened to Selah but never heard this song. I began to look into the story behind the song and found that the lead singer also had a baby named Audrey who only lived for a few hours after birth. Angie went on to write a book about their story. This book gave me the “permission” I needed to grieve my daughter properly. It is possible to know the hope of our future and grieve the loss of today. This book was another gift of God’s grace. Grace upon grace.
A couple weeks later, it was a gloomy day and my grief felt heavy. When the rain began to pour, so did my eyes. As the tears poured down my face I cried out to God, telling Him the hurt was just so incredibly deep. Not a moment after I uttered those words, I felt God say to my heart “My love for you goes deeper.”
I was reminded of Romans 8:38-39, For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We take comfort that, no matter the grief we feel each day, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
Melissa Kirsch is a Loss Mama to a 24-weeker and Nicu Mama to surviving 25-week twins.