I wrote this story shortly after losing Callie. I'm simply cutting and pasting it because I can't bear to write the story again.
I write this story in memory of our daughter, Callie Grace. Her brief life touched many and her story will continue to do the same. It is my hope that through this story her life will be remembered and all who hear about her will recognize the fragility and sanctity of life.
Thanksgiving 2007, my family was down in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, celebrating together. It was a different year for everyone. Matt was working at a Christian bookstore, after leaving his position at the church, and we were unable to go home to Indiana to celebrate. My family came down to be with us. I remember it was a fun time yet also a sad time for us as Matt and I longed to be parents. It had been over a year now and still our arms were empty. We thought we were pregnant in September but that turned out to be a false hope. We still believe we had a miscarriage yet it was never confirmed because I did not take a pregnancy test. I scheduled an appointment at a fertility clinic for the week after Thanksgiving. That was all I could think about. The following week I went to the clinic and listened as the nurse described all the tests and procedures that needed to be done in the upcoming weeks and months. This was only a consultation, the beginning of what would be a lengthy process. It was overwhelming. I walked away from that appointment with hope yet also with fear of what the results of these tests might tell us. Matt and I talked about things but did not make any decisions because we were both unsettled with the whole idea.
That weekend we were supposed to go to Indiana for an interview at a church. As we were driving Matt and I talked about our feelings about the fertility testing. We both came to the same conclusion that we would not pursue this route. It felt forced. We were not at peace and we knew that God was the author of life. He would give us a baby at the right time. We proceeded through the interview and were offered a job that weekend at New Haven United Methodist Church. We had never felt such peace throughout the interview process. Usually there were red flags or feelings in the pits of our stomachs we could not ignore. Not this time. The Lord was giving us both peace and we knew this was the place for us. We would be going back home to pack up our things and move back closer to family and friends. We felt so blessed. It was an amazing feeling that we experienced on that drive home. During the following week, I began to wonder if I was pregnant. I decided I would take a pregnancy test that weekend if nothing had changed. I would wait until then because I simply could not bear another negative pregnancy test. Wednesday, December 13, I could not deny the changes in my body any longer. I went to Wal-Mart on the way home from work and got one of those digital tests. I was tired of trying to read pink lines. I wanted a clear PREGNANT or NOT PREGNANT. I got home, took the test, and immediately began crying when I read the words PREGNANT. I kept looking at them waiting for NOT to show up next to the words. When it did not show up I decided I had to go find a way to tell Matt. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a bib that said “I love Daddy.” It was blue and had dinosaurs on it….but it was all I could find. I raced home only to find that Matt had come home early from work and I sat in the driveway wondering if he had seen the test lying on the kitchen counter. When I walked in the house I immediately knew that he had. He looked at me and asked, “Is this true?” When I nodded my head confirming that it was true, we both began crying and hugging. “It’s going to be a good year.” We had a new job that was taking us back to be closer to our family and now we had a precious baby on the way. We felt so amazed and so blessed. Matt wanted to wait until Christmas to tell our families. That lasted until 10:00 that night. I was busting at the seams to call my family and tell them our good news. So we both called our families at the same time. I asked my parents if I could bring a visitor with me for Christmas. When they inquired as to whom, I explained the baby in my belly! It was a joyous Christmas, looking forward to the next year when our baby would be celebrating with us. We packed up and moved to Indiana on New Year’s. We began to look for a house for the two of us and our baby and made plans for me to be able to stay home when the baby came. We started getting her nursery ready. I had so much fun planning her room and buying her baby clothes. March 23rd we went to the doctor and he confirmed our hopes that it was a girl. Callie, which means most beautiful, would be her name. We were so excited. She would be the first granddaughter on both sides and the first great-granddaughter on my side. Matt called her his little princess and talked about how he would spoil her rotten. We went to Hilton Head in May with my family and talked about how next year we would have all three kids together. They each were a year apart. Trey would be two, Owen would be one and then baby Callie. What fun! Trey would come up to me all the time and lift up my shirt, put his hands on my belly and say “Callie.” I know that she could hear her cousin talking to her. Matt and I talked about how we would take her to the beach next year and walk with her between us in the sand. We even bought her a pink Hilton Head shirt to wear the following year. I began to experience swelling in Hilton Head. We thought it was due to the heat and humidity. It never really got better even when we got home. Within the next few months the doctors told me I was developing preeclampsia and toxemia. At 32 weeks he placed me on modified bed rest. On Tuesday I began to feel Callie move less but everything I read said that was normal because the baby grows and there is less room to move around. Wednesday morning, June 27, I woke up and felt that something was not right. I could not get rid of that feeling. I figured that I was overreacting but wanted to reassure myself. I went to see the nurse practitioner and she could not find a heartbeat. She did an ultrasound that confirmed my worst fear. Our baby was gone. I kept looking at the screen in shock. I thought that there had to be some mistake. It felt like I was sitting in the corner of the room watching myself lying on the table. I was in complete shock. I was crying and kept saying “no, no.” My mom just held me and we cried together. When Matt came he put his hands on my belly and said, “Hang on Callie. Be strong. Just a little bit longer.” I grabbed his hands and told him that she was already gone. We stood there in the doctor’s office just holding each other and crying. This surely could not be happening to us.
That night at Lutheran Hospital they began to give me medicine to help prepare my body for labor. They told me what I should expect and what would happen over the next few hours and days. The nurse told me that I needed to be thinking about things like if we would name the baby, if we would hold her and a funeral home. I had not even thought about the fact that we would have to bury our baby. This really was happening to us. They started medicine to begin contractions at 5:00 on Thursday morning. By Thursday night I still was not dilating so they stepped it up a notch and added a different medicine around 10:00 p.m. Thankfully the next morning I was fully dilated. I delivered Callie around 9:17 on Friday morning. She weighed 2 lbs 13 oz. They laid her on my belly and Matt cut her umbilical cord. After she was cleaned up our families each shared some time with us. She was beautiful. She had the prettiest lips I have ever seen. They were so perfect. Her mouth was open…it was like she was already in heaven singing. Callie was baptized later that morning and then we each proceeded to say our good-byes. I wish we would have held her longer. Those few shorts hours were all we had with our daughter. We went home that evening. My arms have never ached as much as they did on the way out of the hospital. I held a little pink bunny, a “silly buddy”, but it brought little comfort. We were supposed to be leaving with our Callie. I still remember the screams from women in labor and the crying babies in nearby rooms. I still would change places with those women.
Though her life was brief Callie impacted us in tremendous ways. I worked on areas of my life that I saw needed to be changed in preparation for her birth. I wanted to be the best wife and mother that I could be and I saw myself falling short. I wanted to be the kind of mom that my mom was and still continues to be. I wanted to bring Callie home to a happy place, a place where she would thrive and grow. I became a better person. I wanted to make Callie proud of her mom. During our time at the hospital I saw my husband’s deep love for me as he stayed by my side. Our love and marriage has been strengthened by the loss of our child. I love Matt now even more than the day I married him. He was a wonderful father to Callie. I am convinced that she would have been a daddy’s girl. She looked like her mom, but her heart would have belonged to daddy. Those are merely ways that Callie impacted the two of us. There are numerous ways that she affected other people as well.
We do not know or understand why we suffered this loss but we do know that God has a plan for Callie. We will hold her again in heaven one day and see the whole picture. What I do know is that God has gotten us through this tragedy that could have destroyed us. We could not have gotten this far without the prayers and support of our family and friends. We grieve with hope of our reunion with Callie one day in heaven.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
This is where I originally ended this story. However, yesterday was August 15, my due date. We visited her grave and sat and talked for a long time together. I began to notice how many babies had lived one day or one month and I began to feel so grateful. What if our baby had lived and had spent her short life in a hospital nursery? What if she had been in constant pain? Who knows what her life would have been like. I know that God’s plan is better than ours. Selfishly we wish she would have lived. Selfishly we want her here with us. How wonderful, though, to know that our daughter opened her eyes for the first time and saw heaven. The first face she saw was Jesus, the first sound she heard was the angels singing. I could not ask for a better life for her.