We are so honored to feature Lindsey’s story in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This story is one of strength, grace and so much hope. Eva’s life breaks down the walls of a subject that isn’t openly addressed or talked about near enough in our society and that is one of the stigmas that we are aiming to break here at Grace+Kai. You will see these stories of loss, hope and healing surface on the blog often. And its done completely on purpose. Its for the same reasons that we tell every story you see here – we want these stories known, so that when another mom walks the same road, she knows she is not alone. I’ve been there. Lindsey has been there. Julie has been there. All of these stories are real moms who have been through the fire and lived to tell the story. Stories are what make us real. Raw and unapologetic in nature, we are here to break Stigmas. Because life is too short to walk it alone.
This is Lindsey’s story. Learn from her. See her strength and know that you can move whatever mountain is in front of you, too.
To get your own “Hope Remains” shirt to remind you of the journey you have made it through, click here.
These words still echo in my soul even six years later. As fresh as the morning dew is on the ground outside my window as I write this, are these words on the ground of my very being. You see, these words were my anthem… they are my anthem.
My name is Lindsey Clark. I’m a thirty-six-year-old wife and mother of five. I’m a “boss babe,” coffee addict, makeup lover/dealer, pastor’s wife, optimist, CrossFit obsessed and I’m also part of the club no one wants to belong to… no one should have to belong to. Not only have I had a miscarriage, I have buried a child. My beautiful, loved, cherished, fourth child, Eva Ajahnae Clark.
On Easter Sunday, 2013, I took yet another pregnancy test and it was confirmed! Number four was on the way. With much excitement and anticipation, I carried that baby the same way I had carried the other three. I had already had an early miscarriage so once I hit thirteen weeks I thought I was “in the clear.” We were so excited to get an early peek at the gender around seventeen weeks and to see that it was a girl! Presley would have a sister, we would have two boys and two girls, and all would be right in our little world… our family would be complete.
At twenty weeks we went in for our official gender scan. The boys were in school and we had Presley, two at the time, with us. Oh, the excitement of walking into that ultrasound room knowing your eyes are going to see that little peanut that feels like an elephant kicking and doing cartwheels in your belly! I laid on the table and began pointing out to Presley, “Look! There’s your sister! See her feet? See her hands?” “It’s definitely a girl,” confirmed the technician. “I’m looking at her heart now.” That’s the moment. Right there. That mama instinct, intuition, that “feeling.” See I knew what I was looking at. This was round four and by now, I knew what the heart should look like. Four chambers, almost appearing like a four leaf clover. Four little sections very similar in size. That’s not what I saw. I saw one large section and two tiny ones. “Where is the fourth one?” I thought. I began to deny what I knew in my gut. “It’s there. You aren’t a professional. She’s about to finish and tell you all is well.” Nope. She didn’t tell me that. She got very quiet. VERY quiet. She escorted me to a room where just moments later a doctor came to console me and tell me something was very wrong and that I had to see a specialist in the coming days.
Nothing prepares you for this. I cried and then, being the faith-filled people we are, Eric and I chose to be optimistic until we heard from a specialist. About a week later, we drove to MUSC in Charleston, SC, where our worst nightmare was confirmed. Not only was something wrong, it was VERY wrong. Our baby’s condition didn’t even have an official name because it was so rare. Similar to hypoplastic left heart syndrome, but reversed and worse. We were told she likely only had days before she passed in my womb, that she would never make it to birth, and we were strongly encouraged to abort so as to “not put ourselves through any unnecessary trauma.” Life was the ONLY option for us. As we took what felt like an eternal walk through the parking garage to get to our car, it felt like the darkness of the entire universe was looming around us. Like everything in life stopped to watch us collapse into each other’s arms and sob until we were nearly sick. The thought of basically going home to attempt to live life waiting on our daughter to die was the deepest darkness I have ever felt. As we were pulling out of that parking garage, I called my parents to relay the news. They spoke life to me and reminded me that God had the final say; that it was our responsibility to have faith and give God the opportunity to perform a miracle. I can’t explain it, but that conversation brought up a fight in me… a determination to give our daughter every fighting chance and to believe for a miracle!
That night we named her. I had a list of names I had chosen prior to her diagnosis, but now she needed a name that had power, a meaningful name that spoke life over her. So, we chose Eva (life) Ajahnae (she who wins the battle, she who fights for what is hers.)
In the following days I created a Facebook page for her and the amount of followers, support, and love that came from that blew our minds, reminding us what the Body of Christ truly is. This was such a time of self-discovery for me. This battle showed me things about myself that I didn’t know… good and bad. One of the positive things I learned about myself, really the God in me, was how strong I could be when needed. I went on a war-path. A war-path for hope. I began researching options and possibilities for medical help. I wasted no time and personally contacted the best children’s cardiac surgeon in the country. He was in Boston and I read how he was successfully performing in utero surgeries, saving babies’ lives. Initially, they deemed Eva a candidate for this surgery and we were elated. We made plans, scheduled surgery, miraculously raised $10,000 for the deductible, and precious friends purchased our plane tickets. We were set to go and received a devastating phone call from the surgeon himself, relaying that based on Eva’s latest heart scans her condition had worsened and was beyond repair.
Hopeless. Have you ever felt hopeless? Darkness, heartache, failure, anger, and fear are just a few of the emotions that gripped my very soul. The days and weeks ahead were filled with ultra sounds, (These were no longer fun. They had quickly become one of the scariest things in my life.) prayers, scary medical procedures, more prayers, battles for our faith, and believing for a miracle. The body of Christ undergirded us in a march toward faith. We believed. We knew He was able. We stood. We fought. My prayer was that if God chose not to heal Eva entirely, that He would allow her to make it to birth and allow me to hold my baby alive. Remember, the specialists told us she would NOT. Every single day that I felt her kicking was a miracle. Every time I heard her heartbeat at the doctor’s office was a miracle. Every time they measured her growth was a miracle. I began to celebrate EVERY miracle. Every single day was a miracle and we were so blessed.
The weeks kept passing and on a Monday morning around 11 AM, when I was thirty-two weeks pregnant (WOW!), I went into labor. I was rushed by ambulance to MUSC where they unsuccessfully attempted to stop labor. I chose to have a c-section as this was the least stressful option on Eva’s heart. As my precious husband stood beside me, Eva was born and rushed to an adjoining room where specialists intubated her and gave her every possible chance within their human ability. She was taken to the NICU and I was taken to a recovery room. When doctors came and told us that she wasn’t doing well and it wouldn’t be long, Eric went and stayed with her, praying and sobbing over her, until I was released to join him. They put me in a wheel-chair and began the trek to the NICU. That feeling I had months before in the parking lot outside the hospital… there it was again. It felt like they were creeping and I would never get there.
Knowing that you are going to be with your child as they die is surreal. I can’t even come up with adjectives to type here. We finally got to the NICU and I saw my broken husband crying, praying, and STILL believing for a miracle. I was numb. I almost felt lifeless. The nurse removed her tube and disconnected her from all of the equipment, placing her in my arms. Right here. This moment. This is what my heart longed for. This was a MIRACLE. Eva was in my arms… ALIVE. She hadn’t passed in my womb. She fought, overcame, and made it to thirty-two weeks… she made it to her mommy’s arms! In that moment as my heart was shattering, I felt peace. I felt the presence of my God who had carried me the whole way.
Beauty in the ashes. There is so much beauty that could easily be overlooked in the midst of the sadness here. All things are NOT good, but God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. This loss, this grief, this story has brought about so much good for our family. It created such a bond between my husband and I.
He is my rock and watching him walk through that season with such faith and honor made it impossible for me to crumble and give up hope. His love gently walked me through. My babies have such a love for their sister! We go by her grave often, talk about her daily, etc. Eva is very much a part of our family. Her story is still impacting so many. I have been blessed so many times with the opportunity to share her story and help others through their own storm. Really, there are too many blessings that have come out of our pain to share here; but perhaps the biggest blessing in all of this is our Jace!
Remember I told you that we found out we were pregnant with Eva on Easter morning? Do you believe God gives us the desires of our heart and that he cares about every detail of our lives? On Easter morning, 2015, I had this weird inclination to take a pregnancy test. Guess what! It was positive! I don’t know that I have ever worshipped so passionately as I did that day at church. I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. God is a god who restores! Jace means healer, and we named him that because that’s exactly what God did through Jace. He sent him, our rainbow baby, to heal our hearts!
You never get over losing a child. I can feel the pain just as clearly today as I did six years ago when I lost her. The difference is that the pain gets less consuming. When you bury a child, it feels like the sun will never come out again and that life is frozen in that spot for you, while the world is carrying on with life all around you. You feel broken. I promise the sun does come back out! Your story has a purpose. It gives you character. It is a platform for you to help others. You are NOT broken. The scars from your pain are beautiful reminders of God’s healing power, of what makes you special.
Don’t be silent. Allow your story to have purpose. Someone needs your story. Someone needs your strength.