Thy Will Be Done
By Amanda Grantham
It is hard for me to even summarize our still birth story into words… For there would be no limit to the amount words that I could speak about what we have learned through this journey, how true love has been outpoured onto us, and how much our father has shown up and showed off.
It all began one chilly day in February. We had planned a family Valentines date that would kick off with finding out the gender of our second child. Our children were going to be exactly 7 years apart and we had longed for this second babe for quite some time. Our oldest was going to be the best big sister and was bursting with joy to see this little miracle on the ultrasound screen.
That excitement immediately left as we sensed tension in the room with the ultrasound tech, who quickly left and never returned. Instead a doctor came in, double-checked for himself, and then delivered the news that no one wants to hear “We have found multiple abnormalities.”
Nothing could have prepared me for the gut punch that we just experienced, and as a family we just sobbed uncontrollably after the doctor respectfully gave us some privacy. So many questions and thoughts and what-if‘s fill your mind at such a time as this. We had to actively fight against this natural tendency for our thoughts to spiral out of control into the abyss.
We left the office completely numb from what just happened but wanted to make the best of the long-anticipated fun day that we had planned for our daughter, who was slightly too young to understand the gravity of the situation, but old enough to be affected by the mood of mommy and daddy.
I can remember having such a roller coaster of emotion that day… she would giggle with excitement from jumping into a foam pit at a trampoline park, as I sat on the side watching—smiling with joy because of her, but hiding my face so she couldn’t see me crying.
My heart bursting with love for her and her daddy playing with her, but breaking from the world of unknown that we were just now stepping into.
Speaking of my husband, seeing him experience tearful emotions in a way that I have never seen in the 13 years that I have known him, broke my heart even more. He sure loves his babies, and his world was rocked equally as much as mine.
We spent the next week familiarizing ourselves with Trisomy in hopes that we would be prepared even the slightest bit for what this journey would entail. The minutes passed so slowly… we thought we would never get to our appointment the next week where we decided to have an amniocentesis performed.
To the doctor’s surprise our fetal DNA test from the previous appointment miraculously showed up quicker than anticipated. A probable Trisomy 13 diagnosis was what we were told… And confirmed later by the amnio. Our precious little one was given less than 5% chance to make it to birth and then another 5% to make it through the first year of life.
Throughout these appointments we were given multiple opportunities to terminate the pregnancy, but for strong personal convictions we chose life. And no matter how hard things got, we never regretted that decision
We were sent home with the homework of researching more about Trisomy 13 and drafting a birth plan in the event that we even needed one. I joined multiple support groups on Facebook and the internet to seek out other moms, such as myself, who were dealing with a diagnosis they expected to never hear. While many had lost their precious babies, some moms had joyful sweet little ones that gave hope at such a time as this. But most importantly, we have a Savior who delivers on His promises to see us through darkness, and continues to provide light in a time of utter darkness for us.
I begin journaling and lost count of all the ways that God spoke to us and encouraged us during the following few weeks, and until this very day. When you begin to praise Him in every situation, you begin seeing Him show up in every situation.
The weekend before my birthday I noticed a decline in movement from our sweet precious son, and had an instinct to switch my Google search from ‘Trisomy 13 birth plan’ to ‘21 week still birth.’ In the end I was so grateful for that inclination because it allowed me to be prepared for the news that I received at our doctor appointment the next Tuesday. Our little Ryder had passed away over the weekend and I had to choose which type of procedure to have done to remove him from my womb, 19 weeks too early.
Thanks to other moms who transparently shared their story on the Internet I was able to make a well-informed decision about how we personally wanted to proceed. The inclination was so strong that we had already packed our bags for a hospital stay before even confirming that he was already in heaven. We were sent away to grab lunch to fuel myself for the upcoming delivery. And we fervently prayed to fuel myself emotionally for the upcoming challenge. Being induced for a labor that would yield a very, very sad result.
The birth story is an entire story in itself and can be found on our Caring Bridge website, (as can all of our journal entries: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/thegranthams) and was so full of love and grace and beauty even among such ugly circumstances. We had visits from family and friends, who covered us in prayer and laughter. I had sushi snuck in for me, which tasted amazing after the 20+ week hiatus I took after a positive pregnancy test. We even squeezed in some episodes of The Office.
And in the middle of the night, laboring quietly in a dark hospital room when I could tend to feel so isolated, I never felt more near to God. Isaiah 41:10 became the verse that I clung to throughout those 13 hours of labor that I wouldn’t wish on anyone… and those promises are what got me through every second.
At 6:32am on March 7, 2018 we finally met our son Ryder, weighing in at 11.5 ounces and measuring 11 inches. Born still, but still born.
Six hours after meeting our sweet Ryder’s little body we said goodbye to him… But more like ‘see you later’ since we have a hope that we will be reunited again one day. But still, nothing could’ve prepared me for the sight of your little baby’s body being wheeled away for the last time headed to the morgue.
It was only by the strength that God provides that we were able to walk out of the hospital with our heads upright, with joy still in our hearts, amidst one of the greatest sorrows I’ve ever experienced.
The following weeks we are filled with love that I have personally never seen in action. Our church family and our friends stepped up and poured out so much love on us and I will always be grateful for how much that helped me get through such a dark time. Between cards, meals and visits and precious memorial gifts and keepsakes, some type of blessing was around every corner. Often, at specific times when I needed it most. Some days it was all too coincidental to actually be a coincidence. It had to be because of Him.
I spent the next three weeks healing physically and emotionally, and handling arrangements for our baby angel. Late afternoon on Easter Sunday we had our close friends and family join us at our new house that we were almost done renovating for a memory service for Ryder. We had friends play worship songs that meant so much to us during this time, and our daughter read a poem that my dad had written when found out the news.
One of our favorite pastors shared the sweetest message about grief and love and had our favorite scriptures recited. Lastly we planted a peach tree in Ryder’s honor to the sound of Hillary Scott‘s famous song “Thy Will be Done.” We wanted a tree that bore fruit so we could watch it grow over the years and every time we picked a fruit we would remember and celebrate him. This peach tree produces its fruit in July, which was his due date, so we knew it was perfect for the occasion.
Fast forward to his original due date on July 17, when we headed down to the ocean to the exact spot where his daddy and I got engaged 13 years ago. We paddled out on our surfboards as a family and shared some thoughts and scriptures, prayed and spread some of Ryder’s ashes in the sea.
Now I feel like we finally have some closure… Closure that comes from knowing that you survived your child’s funeral and expected due date but knowing that the grief and their memories never fully leave you. Grief is a cyclical process and never just a linear thing. There are stages you need to walk through and it is OK to experience them over and over, but all the while making sure you never get stuck in an unhealthy place.
It’s OK to be sad, it’s OK to cry nonstop sometimes, it’s OK to find it hard to even get out of the bed some mornings… As long as you don’t remain in that place. Make it a goal each day to be better than the last. And I pray you personally know the hope you have Jesus, because I know I absolutely could not have gotten through this without Him.
Find out more about Amanda and her sweet Family HERE