The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Jun24WedWhen we lost our child due to a premature birth, I chose to trust God--even in the midst of grief. June 24, 2020 by Joshua Bailey
After a long day of hard work around the house on a sunny afternoon in May 2017, I was preparing supper for my family and in-laws. My wife, Kristen, had spent the day lying low, pregnant with our second daughter.
- Filed Under:
- Faith & Friends
Our first daughter, Ruth, was born prematurely at 32 weeks, which caused a lot of excitement in our small-town hospital in Listowel, Ont., but after a few weeks, a thriving Ruth came home. Because of this experience, we were more aware of everything going on with the second pregnancy. So while I was preparing the steaks and Kristen said, “Something just isn’t feeling right,” we decided it would be best to get it checked out.
At the hospital, it was obvious by the look on our doctor’s face that the pregnancy was deteriorating. Kristen was only 24 weeks pregnant, and our hospital was not equipped to handle a birth at that gestation. Dr. Matthews is very soft-spoken, so it was disconcerting to sense the urgency in her gentle voice telling us they needed to transfer Kristen immediately to a hospital better equipped to handle this emergency.
Late that night, Kristen was airlifted by helicopter to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, a 28-minute flight, and I set out on the two-hour drive.
Seven minutes after the landing, our daughter, Emily, was born. She was so tiny, weighing a little over a pound. I’d spent weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with Ruthie but had never seen equipment like this. She was on a ventilator, with various IVs and multiple medications.
Unfortunately, after only two days, Emily died. The exact cause of her death is still unknown. We do know she suffered a massive bleed in her brain. You could see the bruise from it on her head. Those moments of watching while the doctors worked to revive her tiny body will stay with me forever. I’ll never forget how the doctor came to us while his team was still working on Emily. As he approached, he took off his scrub cap to let us know that they weren’t going to get her back.
In that moment, there was nothing else. It felt as if Kristen and I were alone, floating in a surreal expanse of numb grief. Our world was suddenly dark.
I felt abandoned, helpless. Most of all, I felt unable to walk the road that had been laid before me.
I grew up in The Salvation Army, played in the band and married a “good Army girl.” I wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but surely we didn’t deserve this. What did God want from me?
Looking back, I believe it was pride alone that saved my relationship with God that afternoon. I didn’t want to be the kind of Christian who, when faced with the first real trial in his life, packs it in. I didn’t want others to see me like that. Whatever it was, I made a choice in that moment, a choice I wasn’t sure I had the strength to follow through on: I made a choice to trust God.
I’m not saying that I was suddenly at peace in my soul. God and I had words. I made demands of Him. This choice was a head choice; it was not directed by my heart. I’m pretty sure, actually, that my heart wanted no part of this plan. It started out as a tear-filled, painful cry out to a God who, at that moment, I either didn’t believe in or maybe even despised, yet I decided to trust Him anyway.
At first, God was not comforting. The message He kept sending me was, “I never promised an easy life.” I had to concede He was right, but I did believe I had Him in my debt. I pointed out to Him Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” God owed me a “good” to come from this.
I prayed for weeks that He would show me that good, and God did open my eyes. He met me in my lowest moments and, in the darkness, quietly came to my side. He let me lash out at Him, like a child having a tantrum, but He only moved closer. God revealed to me that His heart was broken along with mine that day; He reminded me that He had lost a Son; He knew my pain. He had walked this road and was choosing to bear the pain all over again so that He could walk beside me.
And then, like little flickers of light, God showed me that even in the darkest moments, He had had mercy on us. We found out that the bleed in Emily’s brain was so bad, the doctor was on his way to meet with us to strongly suggest that we halt care and let her pass. Ten minutes before that meeting was to take place, she passed on her own. God saved us from having to make that terrible decision.
The flickers of light continued to grow. We met people, now lifelong friends, because of shared experiences of loss. We discovered that one of the nurses who read my Facebook posts about Emily was drawn back to her church. At Christmastime each year, in Emily’s memory, a family in our community is chosen to receive extra help from our Salvation Army church.
Provided by God
The world was getting brighter. Most of all, my relationship with God was deepening. It all started from a decision my head made while my heart was broken and unable to follow.
Now, two and a half years later, our third daughter, Avery, has been born. Like her sisters, she came into this world earlier than usual.
Again, I find myself asking questions such as, “Why can’t this one be easy?” And I get the same response: “I never promised you easy.”
To make it more complicated, as I write this, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m unable to visit Avery due to visitor restrictions. Every day, I drive Kristen to the hospital so she can visit, while I sit in the parking lot. These hours have become my time to talk to God, to recharge my soul. I don’t know why God has chosen such a challenging path for us. I know I don’t have the strength to walk it on my own, but God has taught me that He will provide what I need to stay the course.