Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Happy Adoption Day

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,


Anonymous said...

I have followed your story for the past year. I haven't posted, but wanted to say how I cried tears of joy at your post today. How God weaves a perfect tapestry for us! So many of us have not had the trials you all have had as a blessing to showcase the brilliance of the plans He has for us all. Reading your blog reminds me to look for that brilliance in my life, too. Have a wonderful day with your family!

A fellow Memphian-
Blakely Fletcher

Emily said...

Beautiful. In every way.

Jessica mommy to Alex/ RTS said...

That was so beautiful. I have been following you since last January, you are such an example of hope to me.

jeweljannie said...

My Dearest Angie, Nathan, Marianna, Adrienne, and Poppy Joy,
How my heart is full as I think about the events of the last year and a half.
What a day of mixed emotions. "The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." I know that you sang this at Poppy's funeral as you praised Him in the face of heart-wrenching loss, and now you can say " The Lord giveth! Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
Who could have thought that just 6 months after sweet Poppy Joy went to heaven, that precious Adrienne would become a part of your lives forever!
Then today, it became finalized legally, what had already been forged in your hearts and ours.
What a special time this morning to get to go to the court house and witness the official ceremony!
I love you all and I am so proud of you!.
And Poppy Joy, I know that we will see you and Papa one day again and will one day be reunited with no more separations. I know that you are excited about your new sister, Adrienne! Love, Jannie

Anonymous said...

I don't usually comment, but I sat reading this chapter, tears flowing silently down my face, more rapidly as I came closer to the last words.

Thank you, Angie, for praising God through the unspeakable, and for letting Him use you so completely in the process.


Jessica Kenney said...

Happy Birthday Poppy and Welcome Home Adrienne! I have been following your blog since last fall and I have cried and laughed with your family. What an amazing God we serve! Thank you for your witness and beautiful words that you share with all of us!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. What a little miracle. Thank you for sharing with us.

Happy Birthday Poppy.

Happy Adoption day Adrienne.

Matt and Bethany said...

God is so good!

Laurie said...

This is absolutely beautiful Angie. I remember last year so well as this was all fresh. God bless your beautiful and faith filled hearts. I am amazed at Gods goodness over this past year. Your HOPE is so addicting.
I love you guys. This is the day that the Lord has made and we are rejoicing and glad in it!!:)

Love, Laurie in Ca.

Melody said...

I had tears running down my face as I read your words. Tears of sadness in remembering, but tears of amazement at how God has orchestrated every single line in your story. From granting the desires of your heart in meeting Poppy alive, sharing her with family and friends, having her leave from your arms to Jesus's, and now having Adrienne in your life....all I can say is, wow. God is so good.

Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable throughout every step of the way. Sharing the downs and the ups, the heartache and the sorrow. I feel blessed to "know" your family, and I cannot wait to meet Miss Poppy Joy myself one day.

May God's blessings and grace continue to pour over your family.

Always Been Different said...

just wanted to say THANK YOU so much, for sharing you life with us...
Someday you will know all that it has meant and done for us:-)

Your Sister in Christ

Anonymous said...

When is your book going to be out? That was unbelievable and I can't wait to hear more! Happy birthday Poppy and Welcome home Adrienne. Have a great day!!

connie said...

Oh, Angie, this makes that day so clear. I am so happy you've put this on your blog, so others can see through the beautiful words you used to paint the picture of Poppy's birthday, that your willing acceptance of who God gave you, and your willingness to be the vessel He used to bring her here, was more than repaid with blessings.
I am so blessed to have you in my life.
love, connie

Allyson@House of Stephens said...

Angie, Nathan and girls - I've been thinking about you guys all day! What a blessing you have been through your journey. It's been so wonderful to watch you give praises to God throughout it all.

What a beautiful post. Thank you.

Much love,

Allison said...

I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon your blog but I do know that it was God who allowed it to happen. Throughout the past couple of months, while reading your updates and getting caught up on your story, I have found myself crying tears of sadness bc of Poppy Joy and then tears of joy because of the wonderful mark she made on so many lives. What a beautiful baby girl! God made her perfect in every way! I cannot even begin to describe the impact you have made on my life seeing you still live every day knowing God has a plan. I am so thankful that you have made it through 1 year with the knowledge that God has used your daughter to speak to people you have never even met. Congratulations on finalizing the adoption and Thank you for continuing to share your wonderful story with us. I am praying and rejoicing for you, Nathan, Marianna, Poppy and Adrienne today as you celebrate Poppy's life and your new forever daughter! :)

In Him,

asplashofsunshine said...

Happy Birthday to little Poppy AND Happy Adoption Day to Adrienne! December 1st marks a remarkable day for your family. Enjoy every second of today, and every day. You have an adorable family.

Rebecca said...

"A Million Thank Yous and One Goodbye."

I'll never forget how I felt when I came home from a friend's birthday party and saw that title. I've remembered it all year, too.

I cried over Poppy Joy, something I've not done for any of the other babies I've followed. I don't know what was different about Poppy. Maybe it's that she was the first T-18 baby I "knew" who died right after birth. (Copeland was the only other T-18 baby I "knew" who had been born at the time.)

I don't know if seeing my blog post on the day of Poppy's birth is something you'd be interested in or not, but here it is: As I've told you before, I get a lot of hits on my blog from people searching the Web for information on T-18.

Congratulations on finalizing Adrienne's adoption. She is a cutie. You're so blessed.

Jen in Al said...

thank you...thank you for sharing Poppy Joy, your is so sacred, so precious to me...Happy Birthday sweet Poppy, Happy Adoption Day Luce Family! :)love and blessings always, jen in al

sumi said...

Wow, congratulations on the adoption day, and may Jesus hold you extra close as you remember Poppy.


have a lovely said...

Angie...I stumbled onto your blog a few months ago and I'm not sure if I have ever posted {??}, but I wanted you to know...I am another who is beyond moved, touched, and uplifted by your words, walk, and sentiments...and today I rejoice with such joy with you on such an amazing journey...and what another beautiful gift God gave you by giving the girls the same "birthday" into your family.

The Sanchez Family said...

How beautiful, both your family and that special chapter in your book. Your family is a true inspiration to me.

God Bless

Tonia said...

Thank you for sharing your memories with us!! What an incredible day! December 1st. So much to celebrate!! Thank you Jesus for everything you have given this beautiful family!!

God bless you!

Kim ( said...

Was thinking of you Angie, Poppy and Marianna on Poppy Joy's birthday. I can't believe it's been a year. What a beautiful year it's been for you - to see all that God has done in your and your familys life is awesome. I loved coming here this morning and seeing how you are so joyful on Poppy's birthday - God is so good!!
Love you and Poppy and think of you every day.
With much love,

Kim ( said...

PS - Congrats on Adrienne's adoption being final!! What wonderful news and what a wonderful day to have it take place:)

Cathy said...

God has blessed your family so much and you are such a faithful and grateful servant. He is so proud of your work!

Linda said...

This blessed my heart so very much, reading how our Jesus walked with you every step of the way. Tears flowed, for the love that you have demonstrated. You are a gifted writer, and I look forward to reading your book. God bless you and your sweet family!

amanda said...

what a beautiful account! i know i told you this last year, but the Lord has taught me so much thru you and Nathan. what a blessing you are!

Anonymous said...

I have just recently started reading your blog. I am so amazed at your story. I am filled with emotion about Poppy Joy and so happy about your adoption of Adrienne. I myself had a difficult pregnancy with preeclampsia...although my daughter is healthy I was also filled with worry during my pregnancy. I would love to hear more about your adoption process. If you wouldn't mind e-mailing me sometime I would really appreciate it.
God Bless your beautiful family!

debra said...

I came to your blog to read about 'taking back Christmas' and I got so much more than I ever imagined. Thank you for sharing & may god bless you and your family.

Michelle said...

So happy for you! You have blessed us all by allowing us to follow your family's journey. Thank you for sharing. Love, Michelle

Anonymous said...

I've been following your family for quite a few months, linked from another blog of a friend. I read this post with such hope and admiration. Your faith is just amazing. I struggle with day to day events, yet you seem to soar, even after all you've beent through. God bless you & your famly.

Devin said...

Simply beautiful. I wept with you then and again now. Thank you for sharing Poppy with us all; she is truly a blessing.

Beav's Wife said...

What an amazing post. Thank you for letting Poppy's life touch people like me-people who never got to meet her, people who have never met you or Nathan...I'm so grateful to have your sweet family in my life. You continue to teach me so much. With love, Jenny

Jenny said...

Your story touched my heart! Thank you for sharing. You are an amazing child of God!