Editor’s Note: Trigger warning for those who have lost a child, and our prayers are with you. This is part 1 of a 2-part series from guest contributor, Kelly Breaux. Kelly is the Founder of Red Bird Ministries, our beautiful sister organization. Part 2 posted on Friday, January 31st. If you are grieving the loss of a child or miscarriage, or know someone suffering from these types of grief, please reach out to Kelly & Red Bird. You can do so via their website or social media & email – posted below her bio at the bottom.
The word “Restoration” is defined as the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition. To return to a former owner – that hit me hard. For true restoration of our hearts to happen, we would have to return them to the owner who created them, God. If your heart is troubled, or you’re feeling broken, burdened, or abandoned by the world, please dig deep with me. God is calling you to restore your heart to Him.
After 3.5 years of infertility, I found myself in the ER doubled over in pain. In 2005, we were seeing a fertility specialist and after our 4th round of Follistim, the source of the issue was overstimulation and a positive pregnancy test. A blessing and pain all wrapped into one little package that was buckling my knees and causing so much vomiting. My doctor took care of the fluid and then brought me into the ultrasound room. We needed to see where exactly the baby was, and make sure she/he was in a safe space in my womb. On the screen popped up two tiny little sacks, twins. Our eyes began to twinkle in delight as the tears moved into the corner of our eyes in gratitude.
My pregnancy was uneventful until my 20-week ultrasound when we discovered that my daughter, Emma Grace, had markers for a congenital defect. The news came on a sterile platter with the words testing and a lot of medical terminologies. I denied any further testing because it could interfere with my pregnancy. No matter the diagnosis or prognosis, we would always choose life.
At 22-weeks, I began to have contractions and was placed on medication to stop the labor. At 26-weeks, I lost my mucus plug. Two weeks later, on October 16th, at only 28-weeks things changed rather quickly.
I woke up to contractions at 5:00 am. After trying several things to manage it, the pain wasn’t going away. I woke up my husband, Ryan, and told him that I was having contractions and wasn’t feeling well. We left for the hospital after 7:00 am, hunched over in pain. My back felt like it was breaking in two.
I was already 2.5 centimeters dilated when we arrived at the hospital. They moved quickly to stop the labor. When I stood up to use the restroom, I began to bleed.
They rushed me to the operating room to prepare me for a C-section. Alone for the spinal block, I can remember silently crying as they laid me on the table. My arms stretched out to the sides – strapped and buckled – in the shape of a cross.
I was so scared; my thoughts began to race. Would they cry? Would they be born alive? Consumed with fear, I held my breath. Talon arrived within minutes at 1:28 pm. His cries were labored, but they were music in my ears.
“He is alive”, I said out loud.
Then 1-minute later, Emma Grace arrived. Her screams filled the room as she kicked wildly. Her water bag was filled with blood from a placental abruption. The reality struck me that if we weren’t at the hospital, we all could have died.
I don’t remember much more of that day, except extreme pain and nausea from the spinal block. They gave me medication and I slept.
We were awakened the next morning by four doctors in our room. Something was wrong. One doctor started the conversation with the possibility that our son had Trisomy 21, Down syndrome.
I looked at him confused. “Talon…my son? What about our daughter?”
She was fine. They started rambling so much information as I drifted off in disbelief.
With his new ultrasound machine, our doctor was confident that Talon was healthy. Emma Grace was the one carrying all the markers for either Trisomy 18 or 21. But our son, who did not carry markers for a genetic disorder, had Trisomy 21. I was so confused.
My mind spiraled down a tunnel of misunderstanding, fear, and confusion. Still unsure, the neonatologist was a seasoned doctor who had cared for many babies in the NICU.
After ten days, Talon’s genetic testing confirmed Trisomy 21, Down syndrome. Three days later we learned he had an infection.
On day fifteen, our world stopped. I stepped into the NICU just to visit our son on October 31, 2005. I was greeted with, “You need to call your family. We don’t think that Talon will make the night.”
I thought of a thousand things to say at that moment, but the blow of that reality left me speechless. In a pool of tears, I called Ryan to come to the hospital. He was an hour away. I couldn’t imagine what that was like not being able to receive that news with me. Heartbroken, I cried for 10-hours by Talon’s bedside.
We made Baptism arrangements and watched his life slip away. Every organ in his body declined, and his heart eventually stopped. Carefully cleaned, he was placed in my arms exactly how Christ was placed in Mary’s arms after He was taken down from the cross.
Talon and I were a living Pieta statue. Nothing prepares you for this moment.Kelly breaux, Founder of red bird ministries
The next day, we stumbled into the funeral parlor with an empty checking account. How were we going to pay for a funeral? Our entire savings were spent on fertility testing, endometriosis surgery, and injections. Not born healthy, our family life insurance policy wouldn’t cover the funeral. The last bit of my self-worth and dignity were emptied when I realized we didn’t even have enough money to give our son a proper funeral.
My in-laws immediately wrote a check for the entire amount. They didn’t ask if we wanted them to help, they just gave what was needed. I managed to whisper a gentle, hushed thank you as they handed the check to the Director amidst the tears.
On November 2nd, All Soul’s Day, we laid our son to rest.
We returned to the hospital that afternoon, greeted by the news that Emma Grace also had an infection. We were flown to Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, TX, 2-weeks later. She underwent an 8-hour cardiovascular surgery to repair 3 aneurysms, direct results of the infection that ate away at her arteries. Three days after her due date, Emma Grace had recovered and healed from the surgery. We finally took her home on January 9, 2006.
After 12-weeks in the hospital, she was on oxygen 24/7 and taking ten medications every 4 hours. Afraid she would die on my watch from giving her the wrong dose, I began to have severe anxiety. Still strapped to a heart monitor and the oxygen tank, she was so fragile. I was overwhelmed, feeling so alone in my own home. The weight of this cross we were carrying left me in the bathroom vomiting.
After a few weeks of trying to get a handle on things, I was given Zoloft for post-partum depression and referred to a Therapist. I reluctantly went. After a few sessions, they tested me for depression or if my trauma had triggered bipolar disorder. My mother and several of her siblings suffered from that mental illness.
Scared of what I knew that diagnosed entailed, I hadn’t shared all of my crazy thoughts with my family for fear it was true. Sitting in her office alone, my Therapist was direct but gentle.
“Kelly, the good news is that you are not bipolar. The bad news I’m certain you know is that you are grieving.”
I was relieved and perplexed. The weight of Talon’s loss was massive 3-months later. I think I responded, “Then you can’t help me.”
She hadn’t lost a child. There was no way that she could walk with me on this journey.I left her office that day and never went back.
Emma Grace was making progress and my panic attacks and anxiety began to lift. I felt maybe we were headed in the right direction. At 10 months old, released from day-time oxygen wear, we scheduled her Baptism. Grief’s fog began to lift, and I was enjoying my time with her.
But more bad news came when she was 1-1/2 years old. A complication from her surgery, the doctors discovered that Emma’s right leg wasn’t growing at the same rate as her left. After monitoring it for a year, they confirmed that either they’d have to amputate her foot or do a limb lengthening surgery.
This news came right before our surprise pregnancy. Astounded, I’d thought that the only way to achieve pregnancy after fertility treatment was through more rounds of fertility treatment. But on January 6, 2009, Estelle Gabriella was born at 38-weeks. A healthy 7-lb 9-oz baby girl, she loved to eat. Our little “Stella Maris” was a bright shining light to our home, and Emma loved her baby sister.
We planned Emma Grace’s surgery for July 24, 2009, and packed up the girls to head to West Palm Beach, FL. That would be the first of many leg lengthening procedures.
We planned to live there for 6-months while she healed, attending physical and water therapy, and daily adjustments from the doctor. With a newborn and a child in a wheelchair, I wasn’t happy to be apart from Ryan; but I managed to endure the drive and the surgery.
Back in her room after the surgery, we surrounded her bed and loved on her that night. A couple of hours later, I noticed her fever had spiked. Soon after, she began having febrile seizures. They rushed her to the PICU and administered seizure medication.
The next day we saw her oxygen saturation was dipping. The seizures were intermittent, even with preventative medication. They had to intubate her and give her a higher med dose to calm her system.
Five days later, blood work confirmed an H1N1 “Swine Flu” diagnosis. Without a good prognosis, she was air transported to Miami Children’s to be placed on life support.
Emma Grace had coded and been resuscitated twice on the helicopter, which we discovered when we got to the hospital. Placed on the ECMO machine, she lived for seven more weeks.
On September 10, 2009, Emma Grace went home to the Lord and joined her brother in Heaven. Both of my children died on their baptismal dates.
For 7-years, there was so much darkness. I was angry with God and had so many questions. After we lost Emma Grace, I’d have flashbacks of tiny coffins at the front of St. Bernard Church. No longer a place of comfort, I soon quit going. The place where I loved and worshiped God had become one of the places with my biggest triggers. Babies crying, and little girls and boys were constant reminders to my broken heart.
Every conversation and place I went brought people asking about the twins. And, how are you? One kind acknowledgment of my pain would turn good days into terrible ones. Too hard to navigate what I needed most, I started isolating myself. I couldn’t grocery shop. I couldn’t go anywhere where someone possibly would ask me about the twins.
I built walls around my heart to self-protect. I stuffed and locked my pain deep inside my heart.
When others would say anything to me about God, I would snap. Long ago, I’d given Christ my heart and always prayed. But I thought that when I needed Him the most, God had failed me. That was my truth.
I know now that my truth was distorted, but I had believed the Enemy’s lies. Lies that held me prisoner to my grief. There were no answers to all of my questions. So, I would rapid-fire more questions to God, like missiles.
I’m grateful that God imitates perfect fatherhood and Divine love because I don’t know if I could’ve handled me. Raging and spiraling out of control, this beloved daughter spoke to Him with contempt. Unable to handle it, everyone in the path of my grief was affected.
I didn’t want to look at my cross. I wanted to kick and spit on it. I’ve cursed it many times, followed by feeling ashamed. I would cry about my inability to do what I thought necessary by myself. I weighed my worth on what I thought that I alone was supposed to carry.
My next post will share my journey back into communion with God, allowing Him to restore my heart. And what He revealed to me so that I could accept help. As well as how God is using my pain for my greatest purpose.
Until next time, I invite you to reflect on restoration. This miracle occurs only when you allow God to enter into all the broken and painful parts of your heart to mend the cracks with gold. Like stained glass, the broken is made beautiful. God’s healing isn’t just for me – he desires to heal you too. Will you let Him?