On August 10, 2006, our little girl was diagnosed with anencephaly when I was 20 weeks pregnant. We were devastated to say the least. We had never even heard of this condition. The nurse informed us that anencephaly was a fatal neural tube defect where the brain does not fully develop in the baby. Most anencephalic infants die at birth, and a very small number may live for several months.
We were sent to a specialist that same day to get a second opinion. He confirmed the diagnosis and then proceeded to tell us that we needed to abort the baby. He went into detail as to what he would do to end her life. This of course devastated us even more. We assured him we were not going to abort our baby. The pressure we felt from this man was immense, and I suddenly had a newfound sympathy for women in these situations who are hounded by doctors to get rid of their “less than perfect” babies.
I went home that day and cried the rest of the day. We had so wanted a little girl to join our family and be the answer to our son Jackson’s prayer for a sister. The Lord had answered his and our prayer for a little girl. Just not in the way we expected. He was calling her home to be with Him much sooner than the rest of us.
Up until that point, we still had not chosen a name for her. But with her diagnosis, the Lord immediately gave it to us – Sarah Elizabeth.
The next four months were some of the hardest of my life. Carrying a child you know will not survive is heart wrenching. At the same time, it also became a very precious time where we sensed the nearness of the Lord in a way we had not before. I dove into Scripture, clinging to God’s Word as my lifeline and sanity saver. The verse that the Lord gave me that became so dear was Isaiah 40:11:
“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.”
The Lord was gently leading me during this time, and I knew He would gather our little lamb with His arm and carry her in His bosom. This verse is written on Sarah Elizabeth’s little headstone.
Sarah Elizabeth went home to be with the Lord on December 26th, 2006. She was kicking right up until it was time to push. By the time she was delivered, she was gone. She was full term. I will forever cherish those 9 months I was able to carry our precious daughter and experience her little life inside me.
I praise God that He has given me an eternal perspective. Though I won’t ever be able to buy her cute, frilly little clothes, she has something far better. She has the robes of Christ’s righteousness, which will never get stained or dirty and which she will never outgrow. I miss her. But the ache I feel is only temporary, for we will see each other again soon, never to part again (2 Samuel 12:23). And together we can praise our beloved Savior and enjoy precious fellowship…for eternity.
If you or someone you know has experienced the loss of an infant, let me encourage you that you are not alone. I want to share with you some of the resources the Lord used to comfort and encourage me during this time. They truly did provide a balm to my heart. Others I have discovered only recently but know they would have been a tremendous encouragement as well.
Safe in the Arms of God by John McArthur – This book really dives into Scripture and McArthur shows why he believes all infants who die in infancy go to be with the Lord. This book was so helpful to me and really gave me an eternal perspective.
From Grief to Glory by James Bruce – Bruce talks about the loss of his infant son in this excellent book, and he also gives short accounts of some godly men and women throughout history who lost little ones and the comfort they found in the Lord. This book was very encouraging, and I felt like Bruce and those mentioned in the book were walking the path of grief right along with me.
Beside Still Waters: Words of Comfort for the Soul by C.H. Spurgeon – This book quickly became my favorite devotional during this time. Every day’s reading was like a healing salve for my aching heart. Each day’s reading is brief, yet deep enough to meditate on the rest of the day. This little devotional is a comforting gem.
Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God by Nancy Guthrie – Nancy Guthrie suffered the loss of 2 of her 3 children to a very rare, congenital disorder. In this book, she talks about the great pain she experienced and the tough questions she wrestled with. This is a book that deals with great suffering but offers great hope.
NationalShare.org – This is an online support group dedicated to helping those who have lost a child. There were not as many websites when we lost Sarah Elizabeth as there are now, but I have discovered a number of helpful sites since then that you may find helpful. This is one of those sites.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Photography – I wish I had known about this ministry with Sarah Elizabeth! This site gets you in touch with a photographer in your area who will come and take professional remembrance portraits of your baby…for free. As difficult as this time is and as difficult as these pictures will be, you will cherish them and be so glad you have them.
“When the Lord takes a child, there is one less cord to fasten you to this world and another band to draw you toward heaven.” Charles H. Spurgeon