"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10
It's almost that day again...the 27th of the month...the day, almost 4 months ago, that Annabelle earned her wings. It's also the last day that I would ever hold her on this earth and the last day that I would hear her precious little laugh. It's a hard day every month. I recount the morning's events and wonder if I could have done anything differently that would have kept her here with me longer. I have been told time and time again that it was "her time" and there was nothing that medicine or science could have done to change that. The devil still works and grates on my insecurities...knowing that is his way of operating, we chose to have an autopsy done to know for sure and to put our doubts to rest. We also strongly believe in research for HLHS and wanted for the pediatric cardiologists to be able to use our daugther's heart to help other precious children. Have you ever seen just what God is capable of when you give everything to Him?
It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that we learned the final results of Annabelle's pathology report. We had been graciously given updates throughout the process. The pathologist with our local hospital had not seen such a "unique" case in his time there. I assured him that Annabelle was never "ordinary" and at the very least "unique". After consulting with other pathologists locally, they decided to send her heart to Mayo Clinic and another hospital in New York that has one of the country's leading HLHS researchers there. We knew from that phone call that we had done the right thing...our daughter would continue to make an impact on others.
Just recently, we learned that her heart had been returned to the local pathologist and would now be sent to MUSC for Dr. Bradley, her surgeon, and another pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon from Europe to examine. I had such peace when I knew that the amazing man, who through God's help, gave us 8 more weeks with her would now hold her heart again. I couldn't possibly understand all that they have been able to learn from Annabelle's heart but I know that it will make a difference to others and that is all that matters to us.
What we learned is that our daugther's Norwood surgery looked outstanding and that her heart function should have been good for half a heart. Her lungs were clear and she did not aspirate or suffer at all. Wyatt and I simply saw her go to sleep. The pathologist couldn't tell me specifically what caused my daugther's passing and I found immense peace in his and other experts not knowing. There is speculation that her ventricular tachycardia may have been to blame, but no one will ever know for sure. I like not knowing and, instead, knowing without a doubt that it was God's plan for her precious life.
All I need to know is that He is God and His ways are higher than our ways.
God had chosen the path for Annabelle's life and knew the awesome things that her brief time on earth would bring about. He knew that in less than 4 months after our tremendous loss, we would put smiles on over 100 families throughout the country by blessing them with Annabelle Baskets. He knew that Scott and my faith would grow substantially and our marriage would be all the more stronger because of our suffering. He knew that you would read the words that God places on my heart and be encouraged and strengthened in your faith in Him. He knew that the tears that I cry longing for my daughter and the grief that is too deep for tears would draw me closer to Him every single day. He also knew that holding my son and kissing my husband would mean more to me now than they ever have. He's given me a heart for heart babies and their families and blessed me with amazing Christian friends along the way.
"For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Did I delight in facing a pregnancy knowing that my daughter will face open heart surgery within the first week and that her life would be a miracle every day? Not initally...I hurt for her and wanted to save her from everything she would face. God was bigger than my fear and gave me strength to enjoy carrying my daugther and fall in love with her. (After all, you have seen my obsession with bows now!)
Did I delight in living in the hospital with her for 5 weeks and sleeping on a tiny vinyl couch? Oh yes, I loved every second that I spent with Annabelle in the hospital. I did get a little stressed on some of the rounds when she continued to protest food and I knew we were looking at another surgery. God gave me the strength to function and care for her as I was healing, too.
Did I delight in coming home to 13 medication dosings and g-tube feedings that lasted over an hour every 3 hours on top of all the regular newborn baby stuff and having a 3 1/2 year old son adjusting to not being the only little rotten? I absolutely loved Annabelle pinning me to the couch during her feeds. This was some of the most precious time we spent together and Scott will surely agree on this one. Wyatt is in love with his sister and relished in the duty of "big brother". I was just so happy to have both of my children home and to love on them at the same time! This was the best time the four of us had together...until heaven. God gave us the strength to handle what probably should have required a home nurse and we couldn't have been happier.
Did I delight in losing my daugther so soon? Do I find delight in missing her now? Honestly, no. I wish all of this were different and that I wasn't even having to answer these questions. I wish she were still pinning me to the couch and I was praying she would keep her food down. I wish I knew what her little personality was really like and just how pretty she would look in the dresses that I spent months preparing to doll her up in. I wish they didn't still have tags hanging on them and that her diapers in her changing table were used. I wish that my home was full of baby gear with a swing in the middle of the den and her playmat on the floor. I wish I didn't have to sleep with her "lovey" to feel her close to me. I wish I didn't have to open a ziploc bag of her clothes to smell her and that her medicine schedule that is still taped to the inside of my cabinet were being used.
BUT, what I do delight in is knowing that Annabelle is perfectly healed and will never face another surgery again. I delight in knowing that my loving and merciful Lord holds my daughter daily and has shared with her bedtime stories that far outweigh "Cinderella". I delight in knowing that my mother is enjoying her granddaugther and taking care of her for me...one of the two things that she shared she would love to have been able to experience. I delight in putting together every single Annabelle Basket just as if I were doing them for my own daughter and, in a way, I am. I delight in living every day knowing that I am one day closer to seeing her precious face again...even the 27th of every month.
"For when I am weak, then I am strong."