The day I held my silent daughter

To mark Baby Loss Awareness Week, our editor Jonny Ivey has written a series of articles after the recent and tragic death of his baby daughter. This is the second of three.

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We’d entered a parallel universe – some pocket of life cut out of the real world.

We sat between four hospital walls, some soft furnishings and a bed. Our view was of a brick wall, two yards from the window. We could just make out the grey sky.

Was this the same sky that’s always hung above us? Could this be called the same world? It felt darker. Heavier. Changed for good. I wanted to go back to the safe world of smiling midwives and expectant friends.

For those moments though, we were alone. Joanna, me and our baby who no longer moved. She was still. So painfully still.

I longed for a miracle. Please kick. “Lord, I know you are able. Please, if you are willing.”

Please.

So painfully still.

The door handle clicked. The midwife entered our world, a reminder of the one we’d left behind. She explained the unimaginable. Joanna would be induced and have a normal labour – the long and painful ordeal usually rewarded with life. 

Pain to give birth to death. Pain on pain.

Fear.  

Being Held

We arrived back to that darkened pocket of the world two days later. It would be the day we’d meet our son or daughter – the one we’d known for eight months.

Despite the pain, an excitement grew.

Packed in our bag were two baby-grows. Foxes if it was our little girl. Trains if it was our little boy. Packed in our hearts were the two names we’d carried for those months.

Packed in our future were scenes of family-life. Weekend breakfasts and trips to the park. School-runs and country-walks. Holidays and bonfire nights.

Our future together had been packed into little more than a day. Thursday 20th September 2018 - the day I’d hold my silent daughter.

God holds his children – in life or in death, in comfort or in pain. God held us as the pain grew. The room filled with searing groans: some physical, others emotional.

Our calming playlist ran softly in the background. Minor chords and beautiful violins harmonised with the screams – God’s whispering promise of springtime amid winter’s black. As the pain soared, so did our hope. But our strength was fading: Joanna’s physical, mine emotional. 

As I prepared to hold my baby, I felt unable to hold myself. But my legs remained firm.

God holds his children.

I was holding Joanna, who so longed to hold our little one. Her job was soon done.

Edith Joy 

“Joanna, it’s Edith. She’s a little girl. She’s a beautiful little girl.” 

As cries of new life came from next door, the minor piano chords and violins continued to soothe our room’s silence.

In life or in death, parents hold their children. We held Edith. She chose to be still. She chose to be silent - a choice made for her in heaven before she was in her mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).

“Lord, I know you are able. Please, if you are willing.”

Please.

So painfully silent. Our cries were now the only harmony to the minor piano chords and the groans of creation, pushing painfully the children of God through the Great Tribulation (Romans 8:22). 

Those groans echoed. They were heard in Edith’s silent cries, waiting to be revealed as shouts for joy; they were waiting to reveal the little ones who died as more alive than they ever would have been (Romans 8:21). 

I held my silent daughter.

Please.

Not my will, but yours be done, O Lord, my God.

The Gap

It’s no wonder that beforehand I was scared to hold her. We call them ‘corpses’ to convince ourselves that we’re different. We’re the living ones. We’re ‘people.’

But Edith wasn’t a corpse. She was a person. People live; and people die.

Staring in the face of my silent daughter, the gap between life and death seemed so narrow. No more than a moment’s blip in a placenta. No more than a second’s failure to check a wing-mirror. No more than a rogue cell which cancerously mutates.

Edith wasn’t a corpse. She was a person, who died. Like I will. Like you will. We’re all Ediths. Whether it’s our placenta, our mistake, or our cells.

We all die. And we will all stand before the one who died for us (Hebrews 9:27) - the one who holds our days, our mistakes and our cells in his hands.

Person

It’s no wonder I was scared to hold her. We call them ‘foetuses’.

But Edith wasn’t a foetus. She was a person.

She looked like her brother, with chunky cheeks and a sturdy build. She had a finger-print that one day the library would use so she could take out books. She had big feet, which would cause her embarrassment as a teenager.

She had her mum’s auburn hair that one day she’d dye. Her eyes were blue; her brow, furrowed. She had sassy lips which spoke loud and clear: “Mum, Dad – I’m the naughty one.”

Her face was scrunched. She was sleeping.  

Edith wasn’t a foetus. She was a person. Apart from the plan and purpose of God, she’d giggle when we played peek-a-boo. She’d feel nervous when she didn’t know an answer in class. She’d hope to get a job. A home. She’d hope to get married. Have children.

I wonder if her children would have had those same sassy lips?  

Edith wasn’t a foetus. Nor were the ones we labelled in that way. We can call them what we like. But they’re people. Eternal souls, presently basking in the glory of the Lover of Souls – the one who died, so they would live.

Our Gain 

People speak of our loss. They’re right to do so. But we speak of our gain – our gain of a daughter, our privilege to suffer in this fallen world so she’d enjoy the world we’re waiting for (Romans 8:24).

One more soul fills the courts of heaven – that soul which we so longed would fill our future. 

But our future soon became our past. On the day I left my daughter in a room never to return, I pounded the hospital wall in turmoil and torture.

It felt like I’d die. In a way, I did. The Lord promised that following a crucified saviour would feel like death (Luke 9:23-24). But like our Lord, we follow him for the joy before us (Hebrews 12:2).

That joy is the Joy that our daughter, Edith Joy Adeah Ivey, is currently experiencing.

I didn’t walk out on my little girl. I handed her over to the perfect Father, of whom I was only ever going to be a faint reflection.

And he will keep her safe, until we meet her again.