One year ago, this is where we were.
One year later, how could I have dreamed what God had in store for us today.
Here we are standing with the Chancellor moments after finalizing Adrienne's adoption
Our parents and my grandmother all came out to the court house to be with us for the big moment.
I am so full today. Full of joy, full of the bittersweet memories of Poppy, full of praise to God for the plan He worked out in our lives. I believe I can see the fulfillment of Romans 8:28 in my life more clearly than ever before. That verse says, "And we know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, those who have been called according to His purpose." Trisomy 18 was not in God's plan for a perfect Earth - sin is what ushered in disease and pain. But what this verse promises is that God will redeem even the situations that are dark and hopeless. He will bring life out of death, giving meaning and purpose to the hardships we face.
In my life, I can see this in a very tangible way every time I look at my girls.
I won't get to see Poppy until heaven, but God has given us Adrienne, a gift we never would have had if not for Poppy. Today we celebrate them both.
I wanted to share this with you today on Poppy's birthday. It is the chapter of my book describing the events that took place one year ago.
December 1, 2007
I never saw December 1st dawn. By the time the sun broke the darkness, I had already been lying in a hospital bed hooked up to a monitor for several hours. Poppy had decided to come early.
The day that held the possibility of being the darkest of my life was here. There was no turning back, asking for more time, or running out the door to escape it. But thank God I didn’t want to. I had a peace that was truly beyond understanding permeating my spirit, letting me know without any doubt that I was ready for this day. Jesus had already smoothed the path ahead of me, and I knew He was there, right by me, waiting to take my hand and walk me through the unknown that was about to be unveiled.
Nathan and I used those early morning hours, in a hospital room so typical and plain, to prepare our hearts for the hours to come. Without a whole lot of words, but with our hearts bared and open, we prayed to God, asking Him one last time to hear us. Flowery sentiments or impressive sounding thoughts would have fallen flat in that moment where nothing but authenticity seemed appropriate. There was no pretending, to myself or to God. This was real.
What we asked for in many ways didn’t seem like much, but to us, it was everything. We asked that Poppy be born alive. We asked that she have enough time for us to be able to share her with all of the many, many people who loved her and had faithfully walked this path along side us. We asked for protection from the attacks Satan would be sending our way, and we asked for a consuming, palpable peace to cover us and everyone involved.
The hour came, and time stood still. Two years earlier, when Marianna was born, the adrenaline that flowed through my veins at the magnitude of such a moment had left me shaking; excited to my core, and swept away by the emotions coursing through me. Now, I feared what my body would involuntarily do when this moment came, with the stakes so much higher and the emotions so much more complex. I was about to find out.
The nurses wheeled me down to the operating room and placed me on the table. From the moment the operation commenced, what I experienced can hardly be described with words. God’s presence and love was tangible, like a warm blanket all around me. Never have I felt so protected; never have I been so safe. I didn’t physically hear anything, but I knew that a host of angels were in that room, above the operating lamp, surrounding the bed, and beside the doctors, singing over us and protecting us with their presence.
It was into this extraordinary setting, with the spirit of God flowing through the sterile operating room, that Poppy Joy Luce was born. As they lifted her out, I heard a small squeak, and then I heard nothing. I couldn’t see what was happening, so I sent Nathan away from the head of the table where he had been holding my hand to see what was going on. While I waited, not knowing whether she would ever breathe, I spoke four words aloud. “Jesus, let her breathe.” It was my heart’s cry contained in that one, breathless statement, but it was enough. The very next moment, she began to cry, and I knew I had just witnessed a miracle.
Nathan returned to my side and told me she was alive. We didn’t know for how long, but she was with us for now. My heart soared and tears of joy and thankfulness flowed down my face. I would get to meet my girl on this side of heaven.
As they stitched me up, Nathan held Poppy in his arms, just inches from my face, and we talked to her. I explained that she was loved beyond what she could imagine and that she was God’s miracle sent to us to remind us of Him. We breathed her in, and we realized, without much surprise, that she was perfect.
I was so happy. As Poppy was placed in my arms for the first time, I held her close, realizing that I was experiencing two miracles: my baby was alive and all semblance of fear was completely gone. The awareness that each minute of our time was being cemented into my heart flowed over me. Every potential scenario that had played through my mind over the previous months was discarded and replaced with a reality that was better.
This is what I saw as I looked at Poppy. Dark, steady eyes that hardly blinked, but gazed softly ahead. A nose that was more perfect than any other that had ever existed. A tiny body that didn’t fit her head, which was enlarged because of the extra fluid her brain had been accumulating as long as she had been growing inside of me. Flawless, unclenched hands, and two small, bent feet. To a fault, she fit the physical description the ultrasound had given us, but what I saw in front of me was not a list of trisomy characteristics. I was looking at my daughter, lovely and beautiful, just like every baby a mother has ever laid her first glance on.
I was a proud mom in every sense of the word, and what a terrific feeling that was! I had never planned on getting to have these moments because I knew that none were promised, so living them was more than I could have asked for.
The first order of business once the surgery was complete was to get our family in to see Poppy, so as soon as we were returned to our normal room, we asked the nurses to bring everyone back. What an unforgettable moment as Nathan and I got the chance to watch as our parents, our brothers and sisters, and my grandmother see God’s miracle for the first time. Each member of our family had sustained us over the past months with their prayers, encouragement and love, and we never forgot for a second that she was not just God’s gift to us. She was His gift to everyone.
It was important to me that the first person who got to hold Poppy be her big sister. And, oh boy, was she proud! Marianna sat in her daddy’s lap with arms stretched out, palms up, and announced “I want to hold Poppy.” I watched my two daughters together, and as Marianna took Poppy’s tiny hand into her own and kissed her head, all I could do was smile. There was no hesitation or fear in the way she approached her sister; the size of her head and the abnormalities in her features didn’t matter. All Marianna saw when she looked at Poppy was the sister she had been kissing through my tummy for more weeks than she could remember. All she had for her was the purest love a two year old heart can hold. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
The next hours passed like a dream. The friends and family who had loved us and Poppy over the past months swirled around the room, sharing with us in our joy, and making the time we were spending with her all the richer. She was passed from arm to arm, cameras flashing the whole time, as people laughed, prayed, and sang with us. At one point Marianna sang “Happy Birthday” to Poppy; at another we had a mini-dedication service with our pastor, lifting our little baby up to Jesus and giving her to Him to do what He would in her life; in another, the entire room joined together in the best version of “Jesus Loves Me” I’ve ever heard. I have never spent such perfect, lovely hours in my life.
As it became time to move us into another room, the flood of people who had come to visit trickled out and Poppy was placed back into my arms. No one said goodbye because the transition was only expected to take a few minutes. But it was then, right when the last of our friends walked out the door, that I realized that she was gone. My baby had breathed her last.
Immediately the nurses were called, and after a quick assessment, they confirmed what I already knew. A beautiful young doctor’s assistant took my hand and told me that Poppy’s heart was still beating, but that it would begin to slow down until it finally beat its last. She told us she would come back and check every fifteen minutes until her heart had completely ceased to beat.
Nathan and I spent time with her, holding her as her heartbeat slowly but gradually faded away. I knew her spirit was gone, yet we treasured the final minutes with her. It was while our tears were falling down on her head and hands that I realized God had given us exactly what we asked for. Our prayer had been that Poppy would be born alive and that God would allow her to spend time with those who loved her. And that’s exactly what happened.
Looking back, I see that Poppy was never meant to draw breath at all. Her body, so frail and sick, was not created for this world. But God loved us so much that He gave us a gift. He breathed for her, filling her lungs with His breath, for three amazing hours. I had often wondered in the months leading up to her birth how any amount of time would ever be enough, but as we held Poppy and said goodbye to her, I knew without any doubts that I had indeed been given exactly what I needed.
That Saturday afternoon, I had the privilege to experience what very few mothers can—I was able to know that my baby went straight from my arms to the arms of Jesus.
Thank you to every single one of you who have shared with us in our joys and sorrows over the past year. So many of you I have never met, yet I have felt your prayers. I will never be able to express what that has meant to me and my family.
Much, much love,