Today I'm sharing a mother's story from my sweet friend Rachael. She is a smart, kind, and down-to-earth kind of friend who makes those around her want to be better people. She started a blog a few years ago when she was going through an awful heartache during her third pregnancy. It's a sad but hopeful story that is so worth reading. You can read the whole story on her blog, Suffering by Grace. The first post starts HERE. I cannot deny that it will make you cry; but it's real life and I believe that reading true accounts of the hurts people have experienced can make us all a little more sensitive and gentle to those around us. It's worth the tears.
This is the story of David Nathaniel Watson, the baby boy who changed our lives forever.
Tom and I were married in the year 2000. Lucky Tom, he got off easy with the wedding anniversaries since it’s always really easy to remember how many years that we’ve been married.
In 2004, our son Benjamin was born, while I was working full-time and in law school at night. Yes, I am crazy, in case you were wondering. So, I decided to leave my full-time job and “just” do law school. I graduated and took the bar exam in 2007, just a few months before our second son Caleb was born.
Things were moving along pretty smoothly until we got the bright idea that Tom should go to seminary full-time in the fall of 2007. Let’s just say that the years 2007 to 2009 were some “refining” years in our marriage.
Just as we began to come out of the storm, we were hit with the unexpected news that we were having another baby. I walked in and out of the drugstore three times before I could get up the nerve to buy a pregnancy test, and much to my surprise, the test was instantly positive! Since Tom was in a remote part of Kenya at the time, I was left to myself to absorb the news. “Surely,” I thought, “God must have a very special plan for this baby’s life.” And He did.
On October 12, 2009, we went to the doctor’s office for a routine ultrasound where we discovered that our baby boy was not growing as he should. In fact, at twenty weeks, his measurements were seven weeks behind schedule. I left that appointment with my head spinning.
After driving home in the pouring rain, I immediately starting googling the only information that I had: small ribcage and short limbs. My search returned the dreaded word…LETHAL.And I knew in my heart that it was true.
I could scarcely believe what was happening. I cried and cried until I could not cry anymore. Two days later, we went to see a specialist. The doctor confirmed our worst fears. Our baby’s condition was fatal. I was completely stoic. Our baby would most likely be carried full-term and be stillborn, or more likely, be born alive only to die within hours of birth. I did not understand. How could this be? Our baby was perfect in every way, except that his bones were too small. Outside of a miracle, he had zero chance of survival.
We were given two choices: terminate the pregnancy or continue on for another twenty weeks with no light at the end of the tunnel. We knew that there were no such “choices” for us. We did not choose when this life began, and we would not choose when it ended. Hopeless or not, we would continue on by the grace of God. After all, the next twenty weeks would probably be the only time that we had to spend with our precious baby boy.
Five months later, on March 1, 2010, just three days before his due date, our son David Nathaniel was born at 11:00 p.m. He cried when he was born. It was a weak cry, but the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. He cried and cried until Tom was finally able to calm him. Around 3:30 a.m. David lay on Tom’s chest and slept peacefully. Even though he was sleeping, I could not rest my eyes. As he slept, I stared intently at him, watching David’s every breath. I was afraid that if I took my eyes off of him for even a second, he might stop breathing.
Around 4:00 a.m., the nurse came in to check David’s vitals. His heart was still beating strongly, and he was still breathing, though his breaths were labored. I asked Tom if I could take a turn holding David for a while, and he gladly handed him to me. After I laid him on my chest, I was finally able to close my eyes to rest. We fell asleep together in the stillness of the night. It was so peaceful. I woke up about 6:00 a.m. and looked down at him. I questioned whether or not he was still breathing, but I was not sure that I wanted to know the answer, so I closed my eyes for a few minutes and tried to go back to sleep. I did not want our time together to end. It was like waking up from a good dream and trying desperately to fall back asleep ... I did not want it to be over.
A few minutes later, I woke up Tom, and we could not find David’s breath. I started to cry. We called the nurse into the room, and she could not find his heartbeat. Our hearts broke as we wept together in those early morning hours. We did not want to let our baby go.
When it came time to leave the hospital, I held David close as the nurse wheeled us toward the exit. I could not look up. I wept as we moved down the halls and out the door. The time had come. The funeral director was waiting in his white van to take my baby away.
I hugged and kissed him and handed his small, fragile body over to the funeral director. That was the hardest thing that I have ever done. The memory of that moment is still almost too difficult to bear. As Tom and I walked to our car and the white van disappeared into the distance, it took every bit of strength that I could muster to hold myself back from chasing after that white van. I knew that I could not keep him, but the pain of letting go felt unbearable.
Somehow, by God’s grace, we made it through the next few days, weeks, and months. Our Heavenly Father was faithful to help us endure those grueling hours and sleepless nights. God glorified Himself in David’s life and in his death. David’s little life served a great, big purpose. He touched so many hearts. David was and always will continue to be an indescribable gift to our family. We are forever changed.
As God would have it, the 1st of March is “St. David’s Day.” As I am reminded of this each year on David’s birthday, I smile at the sovereignty of God. He never ceases to amaze me with His involvement in the smallest details of our lives.
|Rachael today with husband Tom, sons Benjamin and Caleb, and daughter Esther.|
Written by Rachael Watson
Photos by Oana Hogrefe
As seen in the Spring Issue