It is also the post that I have been unable to write.
But I knew it was coming as soon as I opened myself up for questions.
So I will try.
It will be hard, and it won't be all at once.
Little by little I will share the story of how the name Joy's Hope came to be.
It all started on a youth group trip to Yosemite in 2001. Jason was driving, I was riding shotgun and the van was filled with nine high school boys and one sweet high school girl, named Alyssa.
I was 14 weeks pregnant and convinced that we were having a boy. I always imagined that I would be the mom to a bunch of boys. Surfing, snowboarding, soccer playing boys. Alyssa asked us what we would name our baby if it was a girl. I had started a list of boy names and had not given a single thought to girl ones. We had 6 hours to go on the drive and poor Alyssa was tiring quickly of the guys in the van.
So we began brainstorming.
I rejected name after name. She was patient and kept trying.
"How about Joy?" she asked.
Instantly I knew that it was perfect. That was it. No more brainstorming, no more discussion. In Fresno we had decided on what we would name a girl.
I loved it's simplicity, yet uniqueness. How it started with J, just like Jason and I. How it would honor my dearest friend, Joy who is pretty much my sister, and how it would bless Jesus, being a Fruit of the Spirit.
For the first time I could possibly imagine having a girl and was even a bit excited.
But I still thought we were having a boy.
Fast forward six weeks to our ultrasound.
"Do you want to know what you are having? It's a girl!"
It began as most normal Tuesdays do.
I had been having intermittent contractions all weekend and was really looking forward to my appointment that afternoon.
I was 39 1/2 weeks pregnant.
At bible study each woman had her own version of tricks to start labor. We chatted and laughed about them, some normal, some ridiculous, and the fact that within days I would meet our new daughter, Joy.
Jason and I went to lunch excitedly anticipating what the doctor might say. Wondering if she might even send us right over to the hospital.
Our appointment was routine. All of the standard questions, nothing out of the ordinary. She measured me and then got out the doppler to listen to the heartbeat.
She checked in the usual place. Then kept checking in other areas. The baby had always been rather active and was often hard to locate. I just waited patiently, not sensing any need to worry.
"Perhaps she has flipped and is breech. I am going to send you across the hall to have an ultrasound." She told us calmly.
Another patient was currently using the ultrasound machine, so we were instructed to sit tight in the waiting room.
About 30 minutes passed. Not once did a thought cross my mind that there was anything wrong. I was just scared at the possibility of a C-section. I tried to distract myself with a People magazine.
Our name was called and we entered the dimly lit room.
The ultrasound tech quietly scanned me. This was only my second time receiving one, and the images didn't make much sense to me. I asked her if the baby was breech.
"No. She's head down. I am going to let your doctor know."
Good. No C-section, I thought. All of this trouble for nothing.
My doctor came in, the tech began scanning me again. They whispered quietly to each other. I began to wonder what was happening. I strained to hear what they were talking about.
Awkwardly my doctor took my hand.
"She's gone." was all she said as she quickly left the room.
Her words made no sense to me.
"What do you mean she's gone?" I pleaded, through tears and panic.
Dumbfounded, we entered the office.
Each of us took a seat and stared at our doctor. Waiting for answers.
She had none to give.
Perhaps she missed the week at medical school where they teach you what to do in situations such as this. But I suppose as an OB, she was much more accustomed to welcoming life than seeing it end.
Suddenly the C-section that I so feared became what I wanted the most. Combined with lots of drugs. Immediately.
But it did not work like that. In retrospect I am glad that she refused my request.... but at the time it seemed so unnecessarily cruel.
"Sometimes this just happens. You may never know why..."
was the only encouragement she gave us as we left the office. Her work day was ending and she promised to call us in the morning with more information.
They let us leave through the back door. Probably to spare the innocent patients in the waiting room our tears and bewilderment.
Jason immediately began making calls as soon as we exited the elevator. Because of my contractions, our friends and family were anticipating news of imminent labor. No one was prepared to hear what he was about to tell them.
Numbly I heard him explain to the best of his ability over and over. I sat silently in the car attempting to process and absorb this devastating turn of events.
By the time we got home, flowers and dinner were on our porch.
Pastors came over from church to pray with us.
Our families came over to sit with us.
My sweet friend Tara came over with her guitar to sing worship songs with us.
God gave us the grace to navigate those first few hours.
But then everyone left, the house was dark and quiet, and we broke down.
I sat in the rocking chair in her nursery crying out to the Lord.
Sadly realizing that in the next few days I would deliver my firstborn and then plan her funeral, when at this point in my life I had never even been to one.
She would never sleep in the crib.
She would never wear the closet full of clothes.
She would never take a ride in her carseat.
She would never take her first steps.
I would never see her smile.
I would never hear her laugh.
I would never hear her say "Mommy."
Until I meet her in Heaven.
"Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory."
Psalm 50:15It took two days for my doctor to schedule my induction.
It also happened to fall on her day off. I think it was too much for her to handle. But ultimately God knew that we needed another more caring and compassionate doctor to care for us.
I never imagined that I would be walking to the Labor and Delivery floor under these circumstances.
They put a rainbow on my door to alert all staff that entered the room that things weren't well inside.
We were assigned the most amazing nurse who had a heart bigger than anyone I have ever met. She made the most difficult of situations a tiny bit more bearable. She even stayed two and a half hours past her shift so she could be there for us when Joy was born.
All through out the day our family, friends and church came to see us.
No one had words to help or heal, they just wanted to be there for us in our pain. Many stayed for hours waiting to meet our daughter. I cannot imagine what that would have felt like for them. But I am forever grateful that they were part of our day, praying and pleading to God to give us strength.
Our room was filled with an unusual peace and sense of calm that I know was directly attributed to the presence of Jesus with us each and every minute.
My labor was easy.
I am so thankful to the Lord for that.
When she arrived the nurses weighed, measured, bathed and dressed her. They gently brought her over to us, swaddled in a hospital receiving blanket.
She was perfect.
Exactly how I imagined our daughter would look.
We spent time holding her, crying over her, wishing she could stay.
Time was frozen.
I will never forget what it felt like to hold her.
They came back to bring her to our waiting family and friends. There, she was loved and held, and my sweet friends did her hand and footprints.
Our doctor came in and explained to us that her umbilical cord was knotted and wrapped around her neck. As painful as that was to hear, we were thankful to know the reason. Many parents never know why.
They brought her back so we could say our last goodbye.
I didn't want her to leave.
"The joy of the Lord is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:10The next few days were a blur.
Planning the memorial.
Choosing a grave site, marker and casket.
Clinging to Jesus.
Her memorial service was emotional, amazing and overwhelming.
Hundreds and hundreds of people came.
All showing love and support when we were so desperate for it.
Our friends Amy and Nathan sang Glory Baby by Watermark.
I don't know how they got through it.
Our Children's Pastor, Papa Larry read the book Mommy, Please Don't Cry by Linda deYmaz.
I don't know how he got through it.
(Both by the way are great to have on hand to give to a family grieving the loss of a child.)
But most of all, the theme for the night was HOPE.
Joy felt no pain on this earth.
She suffered no sadness.
She cried no tears.
She faced no trials.
Her heart was never broken.
She woke up in the arms of Jesus.
All she knows is Heaven.
Our life here might seem long, but to her it is merely a blink of an eye before we are home in Heaven too.
We live in a broken and painful world.
Where bad things happen.
To good people.
For seemingly no reason.
But this is not our home.
We cling to the HOPE of Heaven.
Where there is no pain, sadness, brokenness, disappointment, trials or heartbreak.
Just the perfect glory of the Lord.
At her memorial
people were saved,
hearts were healed,
marriages were restored,
parents were encouraged,
and all were focused on Jesus.
Not too bad of an accomplishment for her short life here on earth.
"I can't imagine Heaven's lullabies
And what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing
Heaven is your home
And it's all you'll ever know"
To take care of something.
I needed a break, a distraction from my grief.
My sweet husband caved in and we got this little guy, Charlie.
I still remember the look of sadness on his mother's face as yet another one of her puppies was leaving home.
Charlie became a shield between the world and I.
People who were scared to talk to the "scary grieving mother" could pet him, play with him and feel safer around me.
I wish I could say that my days were filled with hope and trusting in the Lord.
I was at times intolerable. Inconsolable.
Many a friend was scared off. I am so thankful for the strong ones who stayed committed to me, despite how difficult I made it for them.
I didn't go to baby showers.
I couldn't visit new babies in the hospital.
I missed out on the first years of many of my friends children.
I really regret that.
But, I was doing what I could to just survive.
Seven months after Joy died I got pregnant.
11 weeks later we lost that baby.
Just when I felt like I was getting better, I got much worse.
Seven months after that miscarriage, I had another one.
I began to believe that I might never have children. But it still remained all that I wanted.
I am not ashamed to admit that it took a lot of counseling to keep me out of the deep, bottomless pit that I wanted to disappear into.
I started Joy's Hope during that year of darkness. I rented a space at a local craft mall and began to makeover garage sale finds. From there I taught myself how to sew and began selling baby blankets and burp cloths. With each stitch I prayed for the day that I could wrap our own baby in something that I made.
Thanks for taking this journey with me.
I never expected it to be such a saga, yet each day as the words poured out I knew that I needed to keep writing.
For my heart.
For anyone who might need hope in the midst of darkness.
Your comments and encouragement are so precious to me. It is confirmation that Joy's life still continues to matter, and my willingness to delve back into those feelings of loss were worth it.
I am not brave.
I am just me, a sinner saved by grace, and I could not have written this before.
I have walked this road for nearly seven years, and am finally in a much different and peaceful place.
This little girl sure helps.
Halley Jae came into our life two and a half years after Joy left.
Her name comes from the word Hallelujah and her middle name is in honor of her big sister's initial.
The day she was born was the first day in years that I could truly breathe and genuinely smile.
Lucy Jae was born two years after Halley.
Her name means "light" and she brings so much of it into our every day life.
I love to tell my girls about Heaven, and how their sister sees Jesus.
I love that my girls wear the clothes and play with the toys that once belonged to their big sister.
I love that each time they get a balloon they let it fly "up to baby Joy in heaven."
I love that their middle name honors her.
I love the fact that this little one on the way will share that same middle name.
I love being Joy's mommy.
"Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's
goodness while I am in the land of the living."