Hope for Other Broken-Hearted Families

June 20, 2017

On a rainy day in early December, Scott and I walked down the labor and delivery floor hall, passing oversized photos of smiling babies on the walls. Our hearts and our overnight hospital bag weighed heavy. Our baby’s 13-week heartbeat was gone and we had come to be induced and deliver him.

Dani stood waiting for us at the end of the hallway. When we approached, I began crying. She hugged me with such tenderness, more like a treasured friend than a patient.

Today, almost seven months later, Dani (below, holding bear) again stood waiting for me at the end of the hallway. This time, I hefted a cardboard box filled with gifts. Scott carried two boxes behind me, with kids in tow. And just like before, tears filled my eyes when I neared Dani, and spilled over when we hugged.

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.20.09 PM.png

Joy and sorrow mixed, as our family presented the first of 36 weighted Comfort Cubs and “Quietly” instrumental CDs to Dani’s nursing team (some pictured below) to give to other bereaved mamas and their families who lose a baby, whether a few ounces or 10 pounds.

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.20.02 PM.png

I was given one of these bears the day Scott and I met our tiny Gabriel, then held and said goodbye to him. The weight of it caught me off guard as it felt more like a baby than mere a stuffed animal. I sobbed.

The letter, written by a mom who’d lost a full-term baby, ministered incredibly to my heart. She wrote about the weight of that moment and of the significance of my child. As I read about her hope in Jesus I almost immediately pictured a different scene—a mom who wasn’t yet a believer in Jesus, holding a bear and the letter. I knew God was stirring something.

My due date was to have been May 22nd, so Scott and I decided a way we’d honor the life God gave us in Gabriel would be to raise money to buy 24 bears and CDs (the CD is one that brought me great comfort these last months).

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.19.55 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.19.41 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.19.25 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.19.09 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.19.18 PM.png

We were stunned when God doubled that, moving 52 individuals and families to give enough to purchase 48 bears and CDs—enough that we’re giving 36 to my beloved Florida Hospital and 12 to St. Elizabeth’s in Lincoln, my hometown hospital.

Last night I stayed up late fluffing each bear and tying around its neck my letter of comfort and the hope of Jesus. As I did, I asked God for insight in how to pray for the mom who would hold that specific bear. Oh, the things that came to mind and the subsequent tears.

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.19.32 PM.png

We’d love for you to pray with us for the 48 moms and their families who will have had to say excruciating goodbyes to their baby(ies) the day they receive these bears.

And pray with us amidst the incredible loss and ache that many, many would place their trust in Jesus as a result of His work of comfort in their life? (P.S. If you’d like to know more about the cubs, the CDs or talk more, please comment below and we’ll connect.)


Opportunity to give hope to others as we approach Gabriel’s due date Monday

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 1.45.46 pm


I’m not one for stuffed animals, but when Joy offered this bear to me, I gratefully reached out and received it.

A moment later, my brain registered the fact that the bear wasn’t a fluffy, win-at-the-fair animal. It was unusually heavy, almost like lifting a gallon of milk assumed empty, but actually full.

I sobbed.

A weighted bear.

It was in the first hours after Joy’s incredible team of nurses settled me into the hospital room, given me hugs and space and time I needed before I was induced to deliver Gabriel, carried 15 precious weeks.

With Scott next to me, we talked with Joy and soon found that her compassionate care stemmed from a love for God. She told us about a gift she had for us, given by a woman who’d lost a full-term baby.

Joy returned to the room a bit later with the weighted bear. I became the 4th in a line of women touched by loss and the gift that placed weight into empty arms and acknowledged the weight of a precious life lost.

My bear and precious letter was from Erin Ashley, a mama who’d lost a baby girl at birth. She’d received her bear from Lindsey, a mama who held then said goodbye to two baby girls. Lindsey received her bear from her nurse who’d experienced loss.

“Dear friend,” the letter began, “My heart is burdened for you as I write this letter, knowing that in this moment you are experiencing a depth of pain and trauma that so few parents will ever experience.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 2.01.38 pm

“To have weight means to have significance, and everything about this moment–and your little child, and the story God is writing in your life–is weighty. It’s significant.”


Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 1.51.09 pm
Last November, Erin Ashley (center) and her family presented 12 Comfort Cubs to Joy (right) labor and delivery’s head nurse at Florida Hospital-Altamonte.

One month later, on December 6, 2017, I received one of those bears.

This week I learned that there is only 1 bear left, meaning 11 of us mamas (and families) have lost a baby in just 6 months at this hospital in this little part of the globe. My heart drops with that news, knowing that my story of delivery of a tiny baby in miscarriage at a hospital is rare. Wow, what would that number have been if we also knew how many miscarriages happened outside those hospital walls in those months?

An Opportunity for You

Gabriel’s due date would have been this Monday, May 22nd. Our family longed to celebrate his tiny life by celebrating other tiny lives and comforting moms and their families and pointing to Jesus, our very great hope.

So, here’s an idea. How about we, together, put more Comfort Cubs and an instrumental CD, below, (listen here) that’s ministered to me incredibly–into the arms of those who face loss this next year?

Here’s how you can give, if you want to come alongside us. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 2.05.31 pm
Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 2.19.21 pm

A letter to “You”

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 12.48.31 pm

I was going about a normal Monday. You sprung from my inbox and landed on me.

My heart felt accosted. Such an internal battle about unsubscribing from the weekly Baby Center updates. I can’t bring myself to do it. (Some weeks you don’t pounce from that update. Some weeks, like this one, you do. Seemingly no rhyme or reason to how you work.)

Keeping things, like these emails, is what my heart pulls me to do, even when I feel the American/Western culture pull to toss and move on. But it’s not like I can toss you and move on. You’d still show up.

My beloved boy-blue Ergo lays dusty on a closet shelf. And my pregnancy journal hides in a side table drawer where I’m fully aware that it’s there.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 3.26.11 pm.png

Seeing these things is hard but there’s something about them that’s powerful proof that Gabriel was real.

I was going about a normal Sunday. As the breeze blew warmly outside of church, a friend shared the brittle news that he’d become a grandfather. That news took long moments to translate. His grandson had been born early. Two pounds. Alive and fighting well. He is a gestational-twin of sorts to our little Gabriel, due the same week.

Unexpectedly, you blew in as a cold front. Freshly aware that life is beautiful and so thankful for baby J, and–at the same time–choked with my own desire to continue to hold life in my body.

I was going about a normal Monday night. Scott and I winding down for the evening, talking about our upcoming 10-year anniversary of meeting, this April, and all life has encompassed in that time.

“Two continents…” one of us said, then words stopped like the air in a hose suddenly stepped on. Not sure who said it but it sent us into silence.

You made entrance into our room like a tiny, deflated balloon, pushed under the door. With each moment—minutes?—that we sat in silence you grew larger and larger and you filled the space, pushing against my heart.

“Where are you?” Scott gently asked.

You popped into a million pieces and tears free-fell.

4 babies,” I responded.

I was going about a normal Wednesday. Bedtime routine with the kids. A bit of light was still visible through the blinds. Joshua’s face turned sad. I pulled his big preschooler/little man frame onto my lap.

“What’s wrong, buddy?”

“I thought we had a baby.”

“Oh, buddy. I know. I know.” He buried his face in my shoulder.

You show up, dark and heavy. Uninvited.

It’d still be too much and too mean and too unfair if you just showed up to stalk me. And fling yourself on me at expected times.

Landmark days I brace myself, sure that’s when you will attack.

But most of the time, those aren’t the times.

Instead, you come so unexpectedly.

And the worst? You attack Scott and the kids, too. I hate watching you attack them.

Oh, Grief.

You’re like a wild creature, indeed.

“If I have learned anything about grief in the past two years, it is that grief is a wild creature. Grief will resist every attempt to tame it, to control it, or to keep it tidy and well-behaved. Rather than managing it, grief asks instead that we tend it, listen to it, question it. One of the surest ways to calm it is to give it some space in which to speak—or to holler, or weep.” –Jan Richardson (Thank you, Judy, for sending this.)

And so I give you space, Grief. Fearfully, apprehensively I give you space today.

Everything in me wants to run from you. You are wild.

But you, Grief, are leashed and held by the hand of the One in whom I trust.

Sorrow and Joy

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 11.17.01 PM.png

“Joy and sorrow are never separated. When our hearts rejoice at a spectacular view, we may miss our friends who cannot see it, and when we are overwhelmed with grief, we may discover what true friendship is all about. Joy is hidden in sorrow and sorrow in joy. If we try to avoid sorrow at all costs, we may never taste joy, and if we are suspicious of ecstasy, agony can never reach us either. Joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth.” -Henri Nouwen

My friend and mentor, Judy, texted me these words of Henri last night. My heart resonated as if it identified someone speaking its rare and precious dialect on the far side of a crowded room.

This season of grief has surprised me with unexpected joy. I wouldn’t have had his words to explain it, but it’s been true. Wonderfully true.

It is joy, come in the form of discovering even deeper riches of the relationships God’s provided me.

Here are just a few examples:

Two dear friends who brought chocolate and wine and their unrushed selves to my living room. They gifted their ears to me to tell them whatever I wanted/needed about the days I was navigating between hearing of no heartbeat and finally actually miscarrying the baby.

Sorrow and joy.

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 11.46.22 PM.png
Lizzy’s creation of breakfast for Scott and I (a first). When I asked why, she replied that she knew I was sad because of losing the baby so she wanted to make breakfast.

Joy and sorrow.

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 11.44.38 PM.png
A beloved friend who texted me this picture on the week anniversary of delivering our tiny baby and wrote, “At Andrew’s Christmas program, but wrote Gabriel’s birth time on my hand so I could remember to pray for you right now. You are in my heart, dear friend. I love you.” I sobbed to be so remembered by the Lord through her.

Sorrow and joy.

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 12.33.10 AM.png
At first I thought it was an accident that our sweet family friend included this box of tissue in the bags she dropped off with the delicious meal she’d made us. But then I noticed her handwriting.

“‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Joy and sorrow.

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 11.16.50 PM.png
This may-his-stubbornness-be-used-for-good-not-evil-oh-please-Jesus boy turned 4 today.

I dropped him off at preschool and hot tears warmed my face. Deep sadness that I won’t be dropping Gabriel off at preschool one day.

A fresh awareness of Joshua as my last baby fell on my heart like a rock over a cliff.

But, then, joy surprised me and crawled up over the side of the dropoff.

So even though I wouldn’t have designed it this way, I’ll trust the One who decided that sorrow and joy are to be embraced and somehow, somehow enhance the other.

Oh, Jesus. One day. Someday.

I believe in the rest of the story
And I believe there’s still ink in the pen
I have wasted my very last day
Trying to change what happened way back when

I believe it’s the human condition
We all need to have answers to why
More than ever I’m ready to say that I
Will still sleep peacefully
With answers out of reach from me until

Someday all that’s crazy
All that’s unexplained will fall into place
And someday all that’s hazy
Through a clouded glass will be clear at last
And sometimes we’re just waiting for someday

We were born with a lingering hunger
We were born to be unsatisfied
We are strangers who can’t help but wander
And dream about the other side

Every puzzle’s missing piece
Every unsolved mystery
More than half of every whole
Rests in the hands that hold you for someday

Someday all that’s crazy
All that’s unexplained will be beautiful, beautiful
And someday all that’s hazy
Through a clouded glass will be clear at last
And sometimes we’re just waiting, we’re waiting for someday

Nichole Nordeman :: “Someday”


The wait to say goodbye

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 11.48.48 AM.png

Oh, Abraham.

Our stories are so very different. But this past week I saw a tiny bit of something in your story that was like mine. It caused me to shake my head in disbelief. How had I never ever seen or known this before?

The time gap. The waiting.

Three days of walking between where you and Isaac were in Beersheba, to Moriah, where you were called to go.


Fifty-five miles.

The dusty-sandaled miles you walked between your Creator asking you to give up your son and the moment you raised your knife, willing to give Him back the promised son He gave you.

What were those hours like? Did Isaac catch you looking on him, fighting to memorize his every feature?

Did quiet, hot tears flow as you camped at night and watched your son’s chest rise and fall as he slept?

Did you look at the blanket of stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5) that were promised you and wonder what their faces would have looked like–a future family reunion you thought was never to be?

I wonder what conversations you had in your heart with God as you walked each morning, packing up from the night before and heading out for the day.

Oh, your waiting, Abraham. I hurt with you. With a sentence from God, back in Beersheba, your life changed.

Three days later, you laid Isaac down in Moriah. Laying down dreams.

And, oh!, that Moriah was very likely where the future city of Jerusalem would rest! That’s almost too much to handle the weight of the glory of what was to happen as God, Jehovah-Jireh, would show Himself as the Provider of the sacrifice that’d be needed.

In the land that would become Jerusalem.

But amidst the pain and breath that seemed locked in your chest, you didn’t know what was to come. Not yet anyway. You didn’t know your knife would stay clean. The ram wasn’t yet in the bush.

My little Gabriel wasn’t a promised one like Isaac, but I ache with you for the waiting we have in common.

With one sentence, on a Wednesday, my life changed.

“I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

And then I journeyed for 6 days of, as a friend so perfectly said, “not being pregnant anymore, but not not being pregnant” as I still carried the tiny body of a tiny baby I ached to see and hold.

I had options. Who knew there were options?! A choice to be made at almost the very moment the arrow struck the bullseye of my heart.

I’m so thankful we chose to give my body some time to realize life was gone. It was so hard, but I’m so thankful.

And I can’t speak for you, Abraham, but those 6 days were important days. Holy days of a different kind of Advent.

Days when tears flowed and ache was real because life was precious and real. My body and heart needed those days of waiting.

Then, in a turn of events we didn’t see coming, Scott and I went into the hospital for me to be induced last Tuesday.

Just a week ago.

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 12.50.20 PM.pngAnd, after a storm-free week of sun, it rained, just like it did when Abby and I drove home from the hospital 6 days before.

God was weeping with us. Again. The wait was almost over.

(Disclaimer: a bit more of my actual journey starts here, including a few of our favorite pictures of our beloved Gabriel’s feet and fingers.)

The doctor started me on my induction medicine at 2:30pm. Contractions started coming hard at 5:30pm, causing me to wonder if eating that beef stew had been wise. Suddenly, sitting down sounded horrible and I found myself rocking in place.

For an hour I labored through contractions in a way that I still can’t believe was needed to birth a 13-week-gestational baby.

But every contraction was a gift; a tangible, painful reminder that I’d been growing a baby and this tiny life was so very real and valuable.

I’m incredibly thankful for Scott who jumped in with what he’d learned at our birth class before Lizzy, massaging me, reminding me to breathe and groan low and productive. I’m thankful for anti-nausea medicine that hit my bloodstream quickly when, sweaty and exhausted, I asked for help. I’m thankful for the birth ball and the nurses who cared for me in such tender ways.

Then, at 6:41pm, Gabriel was born.

Perfectly formed but not fully developed.

(Please don’t copy, save or use these photos without permission. Thank you. Thanks to Tim Evans, the Aussie brother I never had, for watermarking these for us.)

Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 8.24.25 AM.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 8.22.48 AM.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 8.23.22 AM.png

My wait was over.

And like David, the writer of Psalm 139 I can’t help but profess:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

I worship the One who made Gabriel, and then asked for him back.

His name is Gabriel

Yesterday was a holy-ground time. We beheld a tiny boy, our son, born at 6:41pm last night. More about that time, later.

I was released to go home a bit before midnight and we crawled into bed about 1:30 am, glad to be able to sleep in a larger-than-hospital bed with my groom and have him hold me.

We recently returned from our noon appointment at a funeral home. My heart’s ok this minute but it was hard to hear Scott have to repeat our story to each funeral home we called for pricing this morning. So thankful he was willing to be the one calling.

As we talked with Andy, the funeral director, he filled out information on an almost-wall-sized computer screen. He typed in Gabriel’s name and it came out in this beautiful, huge font, because of the screen size.

Gabriel Bentley

I couldn’t help but smile. What a perfect name God gave us and the huge size felt like a perfect validation of a life who isn’t tied to that tiny body any more.

We took lots of pictures yesterday so I know I’ll spend time looking at those today.

Apart from some mild cramping, my body feels ok and seems to be healing well.

Our baby is gone

It’s colder than I’d realized when I slipped on a thin, long-sleeved shirt and jeans before the walk tonight. My belly protruded against the wine-colored shirt and jeans, but I couldn’t bear to dress in anything else. Nothing with elastic bands and half-moons of stretchy black in front.

Scott was doing bedtime with the kids so I could walk and process my heart under the stary sky, led in worship by my newly-refound favorite CD. (“Underneath My Wings” has played often in my ears these last 3 days.)

Our brief joy has suddenly turned into deep sadness.

Wednesday afternoon we found out that our baby has gone to be with the Lord. I hadn’t been experiencing any symptoms of anything wrong with the pregnancy, unlike the miscarriage of Micah (at 10 weeks) last year.

So it was completely unexpected when, during a routine scan on Wednesday, that we discovered the baby’s heart was no longer beating. An ultrasound confirmed the worst. The baby measured the size of one at 13 weeks, showing that he/she likely died about 2 weeks ago, as I am at 15 weeks.

The first of the many ways God’s clearly carried our family was in His provision of my dear friend, Abby, to be with me at the appointment. Scott hadn’t come to the appointment because I’d assured him it was not necessary.

Just a quick 15-min appointment, Honey. The ultrasound next Tuesday is the one I’d love you at.

The night before the appointment, God brought to mind the idea to ask Abby to come with, figuring I’d enjoy some good time with her in the car up and back. Only God knew I’d be desperately thankful for Abby’s fiercely-compassionate hold mixed with her tears after Kelly, the tech, gave us the news.

Shock. Unbelief.

Not again, Lord. Oh, not again!  The first words–a moan and sob, married–after it started sinking in.

No. I don’t want to tell Scott. Oh no. I don’t want to tell Lizzy. 

Oh, Lord.

We stopped by to see Cathy before we left, who’d delivered both Lizzy & Joshua. She wept with me and hugged me tightly. More like family than my midwife.

I handed Abby my keys and we started the 40-minute journey back home.

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 4.56.44 PM.pngWe drove into a storm I didn’t know was even on the forecast. Abby commented that she didn’t think rain was predicted either and wondered if it was the Lord weeping with me.

I arrived home to Scott, home alone because Abby’s husband had kindly taken our kids so Scott could have some space.

Navigating around the bags of maternity clothes newly offered me in the entryway, I found Scott.

My partner. My Beloved. The father of 4 precious lives–only 2 that we get to hold in our arms. Never could I have imagined this good man God would provide, nor could I have imagined what we’d walk through with these losses.

We talked and cried. Tried to wrap our minds and hearts around what happened. We decided to wait until the next day after school to tell the kids, not wanting to tell them the very sad news before their bedtime.

Abby provided dinner for us to eat at home, while feeding our kids with her brood. She also offered to line up Emma (a new, much-loved teen in our lives) to watch our kids so that we could have more time together and not have to try to keep it together in front of them at bedtime. We readily said yes, knowing that the kids love to hug and kiss “little Bub” (Aussie affectionate term for a baby) before bed and I knew that’d undo me.

We went to bed, exhausted, a little after 9 and woke at 7. The kids woke barely before 7. (Thank you, Tawnny and others, who without our knowing, prayed we’d rest.)

And I felt so normal. Painfully normal. My body yet to confess anything is wrong.

Scott offered to let me continue to rest, packed the kids’ lunches and got them off to school. He’d taken the day off of work and so we got to spend it together.

In the afternoon, we both picked up the kids, sat down to a snack together, then huddled together on the couch to tell them the baby was gone. The news was as devastating to Lizzy as we’d envisioned.

Our wonderful pastor, BJ, stopped by just before we told the kids, and waited for us to do so before coming in and praying with our family. We felt so very cared for.

He left and Lizzy sobbed for what seemed like forever while I held her. She asked lots of good–hard–questions.

“Will the baby have a heartbeat again?”

“No, sweetheart.”

“Can we go back to when the baby was jumping (the ultrasound from 5 weeks ago showed a strong heartbeat and a fist-pumping, active baby) and [start over]?”

After awhile, we offered to all cuddle up–2 new furry animals God prompted me to buy the kids that day and us 4–and watch “The Peanuts Movie” and the kids excitedly agreed.

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 5.02.18 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 5.02.38 PM.png

What a funny movie that was just what we needed for the release of more emotions, this time laughter. Oh, how Lizzy laughed at the slapstick portions! At times she was red and breathless. Thank You, Jesus, for that joy!

Joshua processed things differently, not fully having the loss click until right before bed when he confessed he was sad and accepted my offer to hold him. Scott said he watched Joshua’s face as his eyes searched beyond the ceiling, thinking.

The tenderest part of last night was holding Lizzy on my lap, my fingers running through her hair and watching her text one of her best friends in Australia, Angie. It was an unrushed hour as my 5-year-old tender soul found words to describe her heart. (My mom mentioned just that day that it might be healthy for Lizzy to have someone to tell the news to. So smart, Mom! Then, on her own, Lizzy asked to text Angie when she couldn’t sleep. I immediately said yes.)


On her own initiative, Lizzy had been creating gifts for the baby. These hand-made gifts give insight into her heart.

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 4.55.25 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 5.03.03 PM.png
My favorites are the butterfly (bottom, made of string), the “spirals” (paper and muffin liner) as mobiles above the crib, and the “lovies”–cut out of paper, with cotton balls inside, then taped closed.

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 10.32.37 PM.png
My planner girl created a room layout of where the crib (“cot here”) could go. Seemingly not phased by 3 children in one small room.

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 9.11.59 PM.png
She drew this today of the baby. (That’d be the umbilical cord, not super-hero green belly button spray.)

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 9.11.50 PM.pngWe continue to be held by the Lord through the hands of friends. Meals and gift cards. Flowers. Offers to have the kids over to play. Treasured notes. Incredible hugs.

God granted us a name today: Gabriel, if a boy. Gabrielle, if a girl.

Both mean The Lord is my strength.

Oh, how He has been.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.