Twenty years ago today on a bright Thursday morning, Shani and I set out to Fairview Southdale Hospital for her scheduled C-Section. Two days earlier she experienced intermittent cramping and visited the clinic, where she received an “all clear” and was sent back home.
As the registration staff checked us in, Shani became increasingly uncomfortable. After visiting the restroom before triage, she exited saying, “I think my water just broke.”
Responding with a reassuring smile, the nurse directed us into a prep room, where Shani changed into a gown and vital signs were taken. I found a chair next to her, while the nurse pulled out the baby monitor and placed it on Shani’s belly.
Swipe, check, swipe …. no heartbeat. No words. Swipe, check, swipe …. no heartbeat.
“I’ll be right back,” the nurse stated. “I’ll grab another machine and have Dr. Curran take a listen.”
Shani and I looked at each other but exchanged no words. I held her hand as Dr. Curran came in with a quiet ‘Good morning’—not his usual sunny greeting. He connected the new device and sat close for a listen.
Swipe, check, nothing .... no words. Swipe, check, nothing.
He slowly turned off the machine, turned to Shani and grabbed her right hand while I had her left. “I’m so, so sorry,” he said.
Shani looked at me as tears streamed down the sides of her face. She seemed to melt into a deep, silent cry. Dr. Curran began to tell us how things might proceed. “Sometimes there are no answers for this,” he said.
Shani would for the first time deliver naturally, as Forest and Addy both entered the world by C-Section.
Sophia Brielle was born a perfectly formed seven-pound baby in a room full of somber doctors and nurses, who gently coached and nurtured us through the most painful moments of our life.
Dr. Curran’s face was flooded with tears as he handed Sophia’s little body to the nurse, who wrapped her in a blanket and simply swayed, rocking her.
Time seemed to slow down in the hours and days that followed as we listened and looked in the faces of doctors, family, friends, and pastors to reference how we should proceed, and how we should feel.
“Sometimes there are no answers for this.”
We were compassionately guided through each step of letting go of our baby, and the most dreaded, inevitable step of planning her funeral. Most of that process is a blur except for a few details. One is that Shani wanted Sophia to be buried in an outfit that she wore as a newborn. The other was that I would sing “It Is Well.” Many of you know the story of that song’s author, Horatio Spafford, who wrote it after discovering all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck.
The irony of choosing that song is baffling, as we certainly felt no peace in those first days, struggling to reconcile a God who was still good to us even though He had allowed our daughter to die the day before her delivery.
But I will say, there came a point for Shani and me both—in our own timing—when we chose to lean back into Him with trust and surrender—even though “sometimes there are no answers for this.”
Through months of healing, and in the years that followed, we have been able to experience and attest to God’s goodness.
And it is because of Him, when there are no answers, we can sing, “It Is Well.”
Now, twenty years later, I’ve had the blessing of recording that song as part of a compilation of meaningful and sacred songs. It’s still a painful memory, but it is truly well with my soul.
Dan will be sharing that song and others at their seniors’ luncheon in Minnesota on September 26th. In addition to serving as pastor to senior adults at Cedar Valley Church in Bloomington, Dan is a valued member of the YES! Young Enough to Serve Board of Directors. (His recently released album, available on Amazon, ITunes, and Google Play, also features Sara Graves and Stephanie MacDonald.)