The end of 2017 was a hard one for my family. We experienced something we never thought we would have to walk through, losing a child. At 23 weeks gestation, we lost our sweet baby girl, Esther.
I found out late this summer that I was pregnant and due to deliver our second child, a girl, in the spring of 2018. We were overjoyed with the anticipation of the new addition to our family and began making plans for our little girl's arrival.
At the beginning of November, during my 5-month checkup at the doctor, we learned that our baby was suffering from an extremely rare condition called hydrops fetalis. Simply put, she had an abnormal accumulation of excess fluid throughout her body and would not develop normally throughout the pregnancy. We were told that it was unlikely that she would survive to full term, and if she did, that she would not be able to live outside the womb.
Of course, we were profoundly devastated by this news. A second opinion a week later confirmed the original diagnosis.
We decided to steward her life as long as we were able to and trusted that the Lord would do His work. At the beginning of December, upon returning to the doctor for a check-up, we learned that our sweet baby girl had been taken to her eternal home.
We went into the hospital, and I was induced. Roughly twelve hours later, we met our sweet baby girl for the first time. We gave her the name Abigail "Esther" Streib in recognition of the story of Esther in the bible. Our Esther was brave and courageous and no doubt would have grown to be a truly remarkable woman. Esther means "bright light" and "star", which she has been to our family.
So how am I doing? I can honestly say I have never experienced a heartache so deeply painful as one of losing a child. And I have experienced quite a bit of heartache in my life. This heartache is a deep soul one. The kind that affects every part of you, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
As I reflect on 2017, I have learned many things. I have learned that deep, soulful pain and one of deep, soulful beauty can live together simultaneously. I have learned that in trials there is joy. I have learned that light cuts through darkness.
I have also experienced the nearness of God in ways I have never experienced. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God walks with me. Though tears flow from my deep heartache, God brings a deep peace. Though, at times, I feel overwhelmed with sadness and despair, God reminds me of the joy and beauty in my everyday life.
As I walk into this new year, 2018, I take with me what I have learned and experienced. Mainly, I continue to put one foot in front of the other with Jesus by my side. He guides me daily, illuminates the beauty in my life, and brings hope to my heart. I am still breathing. I am still alive. I have hope. For Jesus is with me.
I am thankful that I had the privilege of being Esther's mom even if only for a short time here on Earth. She taught me so much about love, patience and trusting in the Lord. She taught my husband and I how to better love our daughter, Mary Virginia, as I savor and treasure every moment in a new way. She has brought us closer together in our marriage and in learning how to support each other in the darkest of hours.
My prayer is our story encourages you or someone you know. If you or that person ever want to reach out to share about the joys and pains of living in this beautiful and broken world, know I am here and would love to talk.
The picture above is the beautiful gift God gave us upon returning from the hospital after delivering Esther. We were met with the most beautiful blanket of white, virgin snow in our front yard. God was reminding me that He is making all things new. And I know that God and our sweet angel in heaven wanted to welcome us home.