It’s a box I don’t open frequently. It’s ivory with a pretty white satin ribbon around it. As I open it, the first thing I see is a small white dress for a newborn with two pink satin roses at the top. I hold it up and think of the baby that might have been.
The date was November 23, 2005, the day before Thanksgiving, and I was pregnant. My much-anticipated ultrasound appointment had finally arrived. Would we have another boy or would it be a girl this time? As our family watched the little screen in the radiology office, none of us really knew what the technician saw. A few hours later, my gynecologist called.
"Arlene, I hate to tell you this, but your baby has terrible chromosomal defects and she isn’t going to make it. She will probably die in the womb in the next few days. I’d really like you to go to the specialist today for a detailed ultrasound so you don’t have to go through the entire Thanksgiving weekend not knowing."
They were words I never imagined hearing. My pregnancy had gone so smoothly. But with the sad news came a wave of peace. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Those verses from Proverbs 3:5-6 had been my devotional that morning. I knew God had prepared my heart to receive the shocking news.
The specialist confirmed that our baby girl had not developed properly and that she had severe swelling all over her body. We were told her heart would stop beating within days, maybe one or two weeks at the most.
That was a very strange Thanksgiving. I struggled with what to say to casual acquaintances or women at the supermarket who congratulated me on my pregnancy. I didn’t want to rehash the whole story yet sometimes wanted to scream, "The doctor says my baby will die!" to people who smiled so sweetly at my big belly.
At church that Sunday, I went forward to pray with a dear lady. Before I explained my need, she looked deep in my eyes and said, "God is faithful." Those words pierced my heart and comforted me at the core of my being. Even in my sorrow, I was seeing God’s faithfulness. He kept showing up, over and over again. Through the comfort of the Holy Spirit. In the notes of friends who cared. Through the laughter of my 15-month-old son. I can say without a doubt, God sustained me through those first difficult days.
As the days and weeks unfolded, my little baby kept on fighting, surpassing the doctor’s expectations. Was God going to do a miracle? I waited for the answer which was the most difficult part of the journey. Every time I drove to the doctor’s office, I wondered, "Is she still alive or will she be dead?" It seemed easier to either know that she would die or that she would be healed. It was the not knowing that was driving me crazy.
My baby was still moving at Christmas for which I am so grateful. I wrote in my journal, "God gave us His Son at Christmas and we give Him our daughter." I remembered a message I heard by Dr. David Jeremiah about the family. He called children "God’s home improvement loan." I realized my baby didn’t belong to me; she belonged to God.
Three days later, I hadn’t felt any movement and sensed she was gone. It took three doctors to confirm that my baby’s heart had indeed stopped beating. I was terribly sad but the waiting was finally over. My little girl was safe in the arms of Jesus.
You would think the story would end here, but I still had to give birth to this baby. I was scheduled to be induced a few days later. I dreaded it like the plague. I remembered how painful labor was the first time around, and to go through all that for a child that had already died? I was heartsick. But once again, God was faithful.
The exact night I was to be induced, I went into labor naturally. No one at the hospital believed me when I said I needed a room ASAP! The contractions were coming hard and fast. By the time my room was finally ready, my water broke. The nurse said with excitement, "I can see the baby’s head!" I knew that God had answered my prayer for a quick delivery. Then when the second nurse walked in the room and I realized she was the nurse we loved who helped deliver my firstborn. I knew God was watching over me.
We received a very special memory box from the hospital. Inside was that small white dress for a newborn with two pink satin roses at the top, along with a photograph of my baby’s feet, her hospital wristband, tape measure, and her footprints in clay. God added sweetness to our sorrow, something that could only be explained supernaturally.
For me, the journey of loss began at Thanksgiving and ended at Christmastime. How fitting! Through losing my baby, I had learned to be thankful in every circumstance. What gave me the strength to do that? The birth of Christ and His Spirit living inside of me.
The New Year came and I turned the calendar year, beginning to hope again. I prayed for God to give me and my husband another baby. If our baby had lived, her due date would have been April 7. That day could have been marked by sadness, but instead it was celebrated with joy. I took a pregnancy test on that exact date and it was positive! I was overwhelmed by God’s grace and faithfulness. Nine months later, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Noelle Joy Pellicane.
One Christmas, my heart was heavy with the burden of carrying a sick baby in my womb. The following Christmas, I held a precious treasure in my arms. One girl in heaven and one girl on earth. What a difference a year makes. People say about Noelle, "How wonderful that God has given you a baby girl," and that is so true. But equally wonderful is the little girl God loaned to us for 26 weeks. Baby Angel Rose taught me more about God’s faithfulness in her short life than anyone else could.
Arlene Pellicane is the author of 31 Days to a Younger You: No Surgery. No Diets. No Kidding (Harvest House Publishers). Before becoming a stay home mom and author, Arlene worked as a features reporter for The 700 Club and an associate television producer for Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. As fun as those jobs were, nothing compares to parenting her three young children. Visit Arlene’s website for tips on looking and feeling younger (without botox or diet pills!).