Beautiful Promise of God

Saturday Eddie and I went to the library alone, just the two of us.  This was special because all summer his baby brother was along and we couldn’t walk leisurely through the stacks. Whether I had Charlie confined to a stroller/Ergo or if I let him walk, Eddie and I knew we had a matter of time to find ten books and get out before Charlie blew our cool and all three of us went into “TOO LOUD FOR THE LIBRARY” mode.

Now that school has started up, we only get to the library on Saturdays and we are able to go just the two of us.

Because of that we were much more thoughtful about the books we pulled from the shelves. Eddie pulled them out, flipped through them, and either slid them back or handed them to me.  We took our time, choosing carefully.

Ed’s favorite spot to start is the big display of “New Books”. This week he chose “The Dark” by Lemony Snicket first and then spotted a book with a grandpa on it. “What’s this one called, mom?”

I took the picture book from his hand and read, “Papa’s New Home.”

“Hey! I have a Papa in Heaven! Let’s get this one!”

Before I had a chance to flip through to see if this book was going to handle the subject well, he was calling me over to help him find the stash of Curious George books.

He had no idea how appropriate it was that he chose that book.

*************

Thursday morning I got a text from my sister-in-law, Liz: “Today is the day we find out if Lilly will be getting a sister or brother. Stay tuned!”

Later Thursday morning I got a text from Cortney. Something was wrong with the baby. There was fluid everywhere in the organs and a cyst on the brain stem.

Our world stopped.

Over the course of the next four days, the information and test results slowly trickled in. The baby, another girl, has Turner Syndrome. This means she has only one X chromosome instead of two. About 1 in 2,500 females born have Turner, but Liz and Cody’s baby girl has more complications.  Because of the amount of fluid in her heart, it is probably impossible that she will make it to term. And if by miracle she does, she probably won’t be able to live outside Liz’s body.

The doctor’s gave them the option to terminate pregnancy or let it continue its course.

Cody and Liz chose not to terminate.

The doctors feel that the baby will not make it more than a month longer, and will be monitoring the fetal heart rate. When the heart stops, Liz will be induced.

**************

When Cody and Liz had their first baby girl almost a year ago, Eddie sheepishly smiled at the thought of his uncle Cody being a daddy.

When Eddie met Lilly for the first he melted. He couldn’t give her enough kisses or hugs. He wanted to hold her and love her.  He loves to make her laugh, and he’s so gentle with her.

He loves babies.

And he was quite aware that Cody and Liz would be having another baby, which he guessed (correctly) would be another little girl.

After the weight of tragedy settled in my heart, I wondered: what would we tell Eddie?

*************

Leaving the library on Saturday, I told Eddie we needed to quick stop at the store for a few things if we were going to bake for Aunt Liz and Uncle Cody.

“Why are we making food for Cody and Liz?” he asked.

{sidenote: why is it we always have our heaviest conversations in the car?}

As I drove, I turned the music down and told him, “Remember how Aunt Liz has that baby in her tummy? Well that baby is very sick and Cody and Liz are very worried and sad. When you are worried and sad, don’t you like a treat?”

“Yeah, I like a snack when I feel awful.”

“Yes, well, I thought it would be nice if we made them dinner and some snacks. What do you think?”

“That is nice, mom. I like that. I hope that baby feels better.”

“Me too, Bud. Me too.”

Sunday Cortney went to a Sluiter Family prayer gathering for Liz and Cody and their family. I stayed home with the boys since it was going to be pretty heavy and emotional. I had told Eddie about the prayer gathering, and when Cortney left Eddie asked if we could pray right there.

So I stopped what I was doing and sat down at the table with the boys, and over their grilled cheese sandwiches Eddie and I asked God to please take care of Cody and Liz and give them peace and strength. We also asked him for a miracle.  Eddie specifically asked Jesus to please make his baby cousin better.

At one point during the prayer, I peeked an eye open, and there was Eddie: eyes scrunched shut and hands clasped tightly over his dinner. My voice caught, but I continued.

After he said Amen, he asked if he could make a picture for his cousin.

“MOM! I can make the pictures and you can write the words I tell you because I know my letters, but I can’t write them in order of words, so you can do that part. Ok? And Bird can color on it too but not until I am done and I will tell him where to color. Ok, mom? Ok? Can we do that???”

I thought my heart would burst from pride for my son.

Once dinner was cleared up, Eddie went to work.

Dealing with Infant Loss

We texted a picture of the final product to Cortney who shared it with Aunt Liz.  It’s still waiting to be officially delivered. Since now we can add her name to the piece before giving it to her.

Dealing with Infant Loss

Her name is Arabella Elizabeth Sluiter.

“Arabella” is Dutch for “beautiful”.

“Elizabeth” is my sister-in-law’s name and means “gift or promise from God”.

Bella.

Beautiful gift of God.

Liz told me she feels like she is naming one of God’s angels, and I believe she is right. Whether Bella goes home in the next month or outlives her parents, she is one of God’s angels.

*************

Sunday night Eddie asked me to read “Papa’s New Home” to him at bedtime.

The story was lovely and wonderful and got Eddie talking about his own Papa who died over 8 years ago from cancer and who lives in Heaven.

It also does a good job of not beating around the bush that everyone dies at some point. I really, really recommend this book (it’s by Jessica Lynn Curtis) if you have had a death in the family to explain to a child.

It makes Eddie happy to imagine his Papa in Heaven doing what he loved (boating) with our old cat on his lap.

We still haven’t told him yet that there is a good chance that Bella will be joining their Papa in Heaven, but we are building a cushion for that fall. For that reality that it’s not just old people who die.

Oh how I wish I could protect his innocent and good heart. I wish I could do something to cover and protect Cody and Liz’s hearts.

There is a good chance Eddie will remember this all…at least in parts, and we want to do our part in helping his memory of Bella to be positive and loving. We also want him to know how compassionate and caring he was during this time. How his unconditional love and selflessness helped his dad and I with the pain we felt in our hearts.

This pain is so much. It’s too much.

Please keep Cody, Liz, Lilly, and Bella in your prayers.

And please keep Cortney and I in your prayers and we try to guide our little guys through this hard time in a loving and peaceful way.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I read this with tears streaming down my face. Wishing you all peace and strength and a miracle.

  2. I am in tears. My heart hurts so much for Cody, Liz and Lilly, and for all of you.
    Eddie has such an amazing big heart, and it is because of you and Cort. You guys are doing such a great job with the boys.
    Much love and light to your family. xo

  3. I am thinking of you and your whole family, Katie.
    Eddie’s picture certainly shows what a sweet heart he has.

  4. OH Katie, I am so sorry and devastated for your family.
    I will ask the boys to bless Bella tomorrow in their circle time , because I’ll tell them about that beautiful baby girl and how much she’s loved, how much her mommy, daddy and family are praying for a miracle.

    You always write so beautifully, but I’m so sorry that this happening. Eddie’s picture just tore me apart, it’s the perfect way to show his love for little Bella.

    thinking of and praying for you and your family Katie. XOXO

  5. Oh, Katie. I’m so sorry. I will keep your family in my heart. You have yourself a sweet and strong lil man right there and he’s so so very smart. xo to you all.

  6. So sorry to hear this news. My thoughts are with your family…

  7. Hugs and prayers for your entire family. xo

  8. I am so sorry hun, but I too believe in a God who looks high and low and hears the cry of His peoples hearts. It isn’t over until He says and not a minute before. With that thought in mind we recently had an unplanned loss of my great nephew. His mom went in for her 20 week checkup and went into labor right there. I think it is wonderful you are acknowledging that Bella is alive even if only in Mom’s belly right now. That will be more important than so many realize IF something happens.. My niece said the hardest part for her is people acting like he never existed, when he did. Sending love and tons of prayers..

  9. I am so sorry that your family is going through this and that more pain is being heaped on you. I’m keeping your family in my thoughts and hoping for a miracle. Eddie is a wonderful boy with a huge heart, and I know you’ll find the words to cushion the fall.

  10. Kristi Potter says:

    There’s nothing more pure than a prayer from a child. What a wonderful lesson you’ve taught him about prayer. Also, thank you for all the information. If it wasn’t for your blog, this side of the family wouldn’t know half of what’s going on with your family. Love you and your warm, caring, Christian spirit. God Bless.

  11. Oh, Sluiters. You’re all in my thoughts.

  12. I am so very sorry to hear about baby Bella. My husband and I just had a similar experience at our ultrasound in June and lost our baby in August. I know that I don’t know you or your sister-in-law, but if she would be interested (or needs it) I would be glad to share in our shared sorrow. Many many prayers to your family!

  13. Oh, Katie! I am so sorry to hear this news! Praying for everyone. xoxo

  14. Oh this is so terrible to hear. Thinking of all of you as you try to “build a cushion.” I hope it is soft enough to handle all of your hearts. xo

  15. I’m sending all the prayers I have your family’s way. I can’t even imagine.

  16. Kelsey Posma says:

    Continuing to pray for all you of you, and Cody, Liz, Lilly and Bella as well. What a perfect name for a sweet little angel of God. <3

  17. I’m so very sorry your family is going through this, Katie. Prayers for you all.

  18. This is so beautifully written, Katie. How you had the words to explain to Eddie what is going on. “Building a cushion for that fall” – love that. You are great mom and sister. Prayers and love to you and your family. xo

  19. Katie…I’m trying to write threw the tears my heart is breaking for all of u…you ALL are in my thoughts and prayers…Eddie is sooooo very sweet!!! What a big heart he has you and cort are amazing parents!! Sending lots of love hugs and prayers ur way!!

  20. Prayers for your family. I admire your SIL and brother and their “yes” to this precious life–no matter how hard it will be to go through. We will offer prayers for all of you. God Bless!

  21. I’m wiping away tears… what a trying time for your family. Sending much love and good thoughts. xoxo

  22. Sending you all love and strength. xoxo

  23. That is just so awful. Sending love and prayers at this time.
    There is a blogger (marwil.org) who had a horrible experience at 20 weeks where they had a heart defect, and had to make the heartbreaking decision to terminate the pregnancy. I was at the same point in my pregnancy and it was just awful. She was always one of my biggest commentators and all of a sudden it was just too painful for her to comment on my living son. Not that I blame her. She is now pregnant, but I know it is always something that stays with you.
    I think it’s so precious the way your kids are drawing things to help.

  24. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!

  25. I think that… well, I know that this is hard. It just is. But also, I think because kids are so much closer to heaven they get it better than we do. The growing up does something to us that makes it harder to understand. Eddie’s going to be fine. You all are. I promise.

  26. I wish and pray for a miracle. I’m sorry this is happening to sweet baby Bella and the family. Much love to you all…

  27. I am sending your family as much love as I can. I’m so sorry.

  28. You have a beautiful way with words, Katie, and Eddie is learning that from you. As well as all of the love in your heart.

  29. Eddie is such an amazing little boy with wonderful parents to guide him. I’m so sorry that your family is going through this. Sending many positive thoughts and vibes your way!

  30. My heart is heavy. I am so sorry, Katie. The Sluiter family will be in our prayers.

  31. God never gets tired of moving mountains.

    I’m praying for a miracle.

  32. Having lived through a fatal fetal diagnosis as well as a mid pregnancy loss due to cord accident I know that there is nothing quite like the heartbreak of losing a child you never even got to know… If they are interested, check out Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to see if there is a photographer in your area who will do photos for them of the baby. It’s the one thing I wish I had done differently so that I had more images and positive memories from those times. Thinking of you all!

  33. Such a beautiful story. You really have a special boy. My friend went through the same thing with her first pregnancy – Turner Syndrome, undeveloped brain and lungs, and knowing that the baby will not survive. They chose to terminate, and my friend said it was the hardest decision she ever had to make. She and her husband planted a tree on her in-laws’ property in honor of their first daughter. I’m praying for you and your family. Explaining loss and death to a child has got to be one of the most difficult parenting moments. I hope you will post about the conversation afterward. So many moms can learn from you.

  34. (((()))) Thinking of you all.

Trackbacks

  1. […] have in heaven (snuggled there next to a picture of their little brother, Eddie) and for my niece, Bella. Who went home too this past week to be held in the arms of her Papa Steve in […]

  2. […] A memorial service for my niece, Arabella. […]

  3. […] blogged about losing our niece, Arabella, last month.  It was awful and hard and we are still finding fresh ways to hurt at each […]