We were pregnant! We’d been married for almost two years and after about 5 months of trying, we were pregnant! We COULD NOT WAIT for our little one to be here and make our home a family of 3 (plus our pup Juno).
I heard all the horror stories of miscarriages the first trimester, and so besides telling our families, we kept it a secret until I was into my second trimester. I counted down the days to week 13 to feel the anxiousness of miscarriage to disappear. Finally, day by day I made it to week 13 and we wanted to shout it off the rooftops. We were expecting a little one and we couldn’t wait to start the preparations of inviting him or her into our home. We began deciding which room was going to be the nursery, how I was going to manage work from home, and deciding on names! We had a few in mind but wouldn’t decide until we knew the gender. But either way, we were besides ourselves with excitement for this new chapter in our lives.
Finally, we made it to week 20! Our first scan was coming up on Wednesday. Every morning when I woke up that week, my first thought was how many more days until we would know if our baby was a boy or girl. Wednesday finally came and I was buzzing that morning telling everyone at work that, “I didn’t care if it was a boy or girl, I just wanted a healthy baby,” as the cliché phrase you use when someone asks you, “Do you want a boy or girl?” But it was true. It was our first baby and I didn’t care if it was a boy a girl. I was just excited. However, in this exciting time, my heart was heavy. I didn’t know why, but as excited as I was, I was also extremely anxious for the appointment. Could something be wrong? What if they find a defect? That morning I asked my friend to pray for these anxious feelings, and she did. I felt at peace and headed to the appointment where I would meet my husband Aaron.
We sat in the waiting room talking and laughing about silly names if it was a boy or girl. We were then called into the ultrasound room. They asked us if we wanted to know the gender and we unanimously said yes! They said it would take 45 mins. She began the scan and my anxiety was laid to rest as I saw the heartbeat. A strong 149! As I laid there, the ultrasound technician was silent as she continued with the scan. 10 mins passed. 20 mins passed. 30 mins passed. And before we knew it, it had been an hour and the scan wasn’t over. She then told us that the doctor would review the scan and would be with us soon. I asked if she could tell the gender and she matter-of-factly told us that the legs were crossed so she didn’t know.
I was crushed. I had all these plans to tell my family the gender and we wouldn’t know! As we sat in the waiting room, waiting for the doctor, all I could think about was how angry I was that we wouldn’t know the gender. Little did I know, that was the least of my worries.
The doctor called us into his office. Before we were barely in our seats, he told us that there were concerns with the ultrasound. I heard him, but thought I heard wrong.
He continued. “There is swelling around the head and the limbs are measuring short. We can’t say much more, but need to send you to a specialist.”
I tried to utter a, “but…wait…what? What do you mean?…”
He cut me off saying, “I’m sorry. This is beyond what we know and cannot say anything further. We will set you up with an appointment as soon as possible.”
He then handed me a box of tissues and left the room. I was in shock, and fear suddenly overtook me. I looked to Aaron for reassurance everything would be O.K. But he wasn’t sure what to do or say either. I cried not knowing what to think. As we were leaving the office, they told us it was too late to get into the specialist that day and we would have to wait until 1PM tomorrow.
We went home. We were in shock. What does this mean? What do we do? We were at home alone that night, reassuring ourselves that ultrasounds didn’t mean anything and that it could be nothing, or something treatable. We went back and forth between praying and having faith that God would make everything O.K., and pure dread of what might be in our future.
Minutes seemed liked hours and hours felt like days, but finally it was time to go to our appointment. We were taken back into the room and the ultrasound technician began the scan. Again, we saw the heartbeat and were relieved. How could anything go wrong with such a strong heartbeat?
She talked us through it. “This is the leg. This is the lung. Here is the stomach. But this…this is the skin around the body. It’s about four times thicker than it should be. Your baby has a lot of fluid built up in the skin and around the lungs.”
At this point, we were horrified, but still had hope something could be done. The doctor then came in. She told us the term was called, “Fetal Hydrops.” Meaning there was a lot of fluid around the baby.
She said, “It could be from an infection, organ malfunction, or genetic disorder.” She kept talking about all the different tests we would do to find out what the issue was so that we would know for future pregnancies.
She kept talking…and talking…and talking…until finally I stopped her and asked, “What does this mean for this baby? Will our baby live?”
She finally stopped talking and looked at us shaking her head, “Most likely…no…I’m so sorry.”
My heart sank. My worst fear is true. She saw our pain and left the room for us to be alone.
We didn’t hold back. We cried out in more pain than we’d ever felt.
“God please! Please! We are asking for a miracle! Why God?? Why does this have to happen to our baby?? Please! Please heal our baby! We are crying out to you to heal our baby!”
We left the hospital in disbelief and sorrow. We came home, sat on our couch, and wept.
We told our Associate Pastor who came over to pray over us that night.
The next day we decided to not keep it a secret and believed in the power of prayer. I made a Facebook Post to read,
We were responded by hundreds of comments, shares, messages, and texts telling us who was praying and who had faith that our baby would be healed. We were still frightened but had faith that God would miraculously heal our baby.
The following week, we were given our prognosis.
We had our answers and even though the prognosis was still not good, we felt blessed to know we could call our baby a girl.
That morning before we went in for our appointment, I felt called to think of a girl name. The whole time I had been pregnant, we felt like it was a boy and thought of so many boy names, but not many girl names. 30 mins before I left for the appointment, the phrase “God’s Strength” came into my mind. I quickly googled what names meant “God’s Strength” and the first name that came up was Gabriella. I had no second thought. As we were waiting for the Doctor to come in and tell us our test results, I told Aaron the name I came across incase it was a girl. He smiled and squeezed my hand. The doctor came in and told us the prognosis. We were told her future would not be long. The nurse asked us if we had a name so they could call her by a name rather than our baby or “fetus.” We looked at each other, smiled, and told her that her name was Gabriella Joanne Bray. Joanne was my mother’s name who passed away eleven years ago. I later found out Joanne meant, “God is gracious.” Her name was perfect.
The next four weeks were a blur. We had countless cards and support pouring in from loved ones and people we didn’t even know. We felt loved and had a strong faith that God would heal our baby girl.
We had several ultrasounds those weeks. Every morning of a scheduled appointment, I felt dread in my heart and scared of what the doctor would find…or not find. But every appointment reassured me that our God is good and that he was protecting our little girl.
One appointment however was different. There was no change medically but God was moving in big ways.
I woke up that morning at peace. Not sure why, but I just felt peaceful. I had some prayer time before I went to work and prayed that God would reveal that he is working in our situation and in Gabriella during our appointment that day. Aaron later woke up after having a dream that he was holding her right after she was born. Needless to say, God was answering our prayer for peace immediately.
As we went into the appointment, as usual my heart was racing hoping to see a heartbeat. As soon as she put the scope down, we saw her little heart beating away. I was able to breathe and just enjoy looking at her.
The technician would tell us what we were seeing and what she was looking for per usual and showed us there was no change. The fluid was still in all the same places. As she was finishing up, she asked if we wanted a recording of her heartbeat. They record heartbeats for babies who may pass away. They then put it in a recordable stuffed animal for parents to have to remember our baby’s life.
Once the one nurse left with the recording, the ultrasound technician turn back to us with tears in her eyes and put her hand on my stomach. She began apologizing for sounding “morbid” but that our baby was precious and she wanted to make sure we could have that incase. I said not to apologize and that we appreciated it, but we were still praying to God for a miracle and we were holding on to God’s promises during all of this. After I spoke, she told us that we have another person (her) praying over our precious baby. She smiled and said that Gabriella is still with us and to savor every moment. She then told us we’d be seeing Dr. Tressler that day, and that God brought us in specifically that day to meet with him. She said he was a special man. We then found out why.
When Dr. Tressler came in, he had a smile on his face and greeted us. He kind of looked like Santa Clause a bit. Anyways, he was a doctor we hadn’t met yet. As normal protocol, he let us know what we were seeing and gave us an overview to let me know that my health was still good and the baby’s heart was still beating. He did mention that at this point, he doesn’t expect to see the swelling to go down or the problem fixing itself, especially since it’s a genetic issue. So he he told us that we should be singing to her, talking to her, reading to her, and just appreciating every moment because this baby is still precious. Then he said we should keep in mind that we all have short lives here on Earth, but to treasure every moment.
He continued, “I don’t know exactly where you stand religious wise..” where I then answered right away that we were Christians and we are still trusting in God for a miracle. He had this look on his face that I can’t even describe and said, I hope you have had laying on of hands and plenty of people praying for you.” We told him how we have been overwhelmed with the prayers being lifted up on the count of our baby and that we have had laying on of hands.
He started to tear up, and told us of how special our baby girl truly was. He told us that in regular pregnancies, so many people don’t necessarily think of the baby as a person yet, but that people are praying and lifting up Gabriella specifically. He asked if it would be O.K. if he and his wife could pray for Gabriella by name. Of course we told him absolutely. As I stood up, I asked him if I could give him a hug and he drew me in and gave me such a loving embrace and said, “Only if this guy knows he’s not getting away without a hug too.” And drew Aaron in for one as well.
It didn’t stop there. He began to preach to us. He told us how in Isaiah it says that we are called to be “thrown into the fire to be refined.” God is with us as we go through tough times, but we are blessed to fight through the fire because it draws us closer to him. He talked about how God is already blessing us because we aren’t giving up on her and how it pains him to see couples throw life away because it was too difficult to handle. He took our hands and said that he and his wife would be praying every day for her. As he began walking to the door, I told him that Gabriella meant “God’s strength” and that Joanne meant “God is gracious.” He came back to us and put his hands our shoulders with more tears in his eyes and said, “Don’t give up because Gabriella still can be a miracle by the grace of God. But you know what? She is already a miracle. No matter what, she is perfect in His eyes, and no ultrasound can tell us God’s ultimate plan.” He then said “Happy New Year…I can say that because I KNOW you’ll have a Happy New Year. God Bless.” And he walked out of the room.
Aaron and I just hugged each other in amazement of how God answered our prayers that day. It wasn’t in the way we were hoping for where we could see improvement in her health, but He was working spiritually through other people, showing He is present and always with us. And our baby girl was so precious to Him and loved more than we know.
What an amazing day! We knew God was on our side! How could he not heal her?
We were then showed three days later, that God’s plan was different than our’s.
I went in for my OB check up the following Monday morning. All morning, again I was anxious. I had a bad feeling.
The night before as I was getting changed, Aaron told me that my stomach looked different. I didn’t notice until he did.
At the appointment the next day, my anxiety was thwarted. He couldn’t find a heartbeat. I was broken, but had already knew she was gone in my heart.
We went to the hospital where it was confirmed that her heart had stopped. Our baby girl was gone. There was no more praying for healing. Now we were praying to get us through the next few days, months, and years.
I gave birth to my baby girl, Gabriella Joanne, on January 5th, 2016 at 2A.M.. I wish I could tell you that she was a perfect little baby. But the truth is, she wasn’t. She was very swollen.
Before I gave birth to her, I was mostly frightened of what it would be like to hold her. To see my baby with no life. However, when the nurse handed her to me, I knew it was God’s plan to take her. Her body wasn’t meant to live on this Earth, and God truly was gracious to take her from this body. We know that she now has a perfect body, and is in the presence of Jesus. She didn’t have to live and understand the pain and suffering of this world. She got a free pass to Heaven, and I am so grateful to know that I will get to hold her again someday in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
We are still grieving. We are still asking why. But we are also growing in our trust and reliance on God. Aaron and I are learning that no matter how well life seems to be going, our strength comes daily from our Lord. It’s only when our lives seem broken that we realize how much we truly need a savior.
We had a memorial service for her. Several loved ones came to show support and love for Gabriella, even though she only made it to 24 weeks. It was a beautiful service full of worship to God and celebrations of her life. After the service and luncheon, our families went to the gravesite to bury her with my Mom. We said goodbye and laid her to rest. It was emotional and painful, but God overcame me with peace. I envisioned entering the kingdom of Heaven first being greeted by Jesus, but with Gabriella and my Mom on each side. I cried, but it wasn’t in despair. It was in hope.
Our grief is not over. We are still struggling to get through each day. But with the love and support of loved ones, and the faith and security we have in God, we can still find joy and peace in each day.
We are still blessed. No pain, loss, or grief can change that.
Thank you Lord for what you have given us and what you continue to give us. We know you can use the pain and sin of this world to show your Glory. We pray you continue to use Gabriella to speak your truth and show your light. Amen.
You can read more about the Bray’s story here… https://jillbrayblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/finding-peace-in-a-broken-world-the-loss-of-our-baby-girl/