Nine years and three days ago, we brought Jadelynn home from a very long 3.5 month NICU stay.  It was all we had been praying for, and we were so excited for our miracle.  She only measured 26 weeks when she was born after all! It wasn’t just that she was premature, she was actually 31 weeks, but due to a condition called no-end-diastolic-flow (fancy for my placenta stopped working) she had a better chance of survival if she was born early. She wasn’t being fed properly because of this, and weighed only 1 lb 15 ounces when she was born.  It took those months in the NICU to reach the markers that indicated it was safe to come home. When she did, our hearts burst with joy, and our 2-year-old Jimmy babbled what was in all our hearts, ‘home, home, home!’.

Jadelynn would be coming home with a g-tube to help her eat, a heart monitor to measure her heart and lungs as a precautionary measure, and some oxygen until she got the hang of things on her own.

Nine years and two days ago, I set off for my first trip with all my babies. I gathered up the double stroller, the oxygen tank, the monitors and took Jadelynn, Elise, and Jimmy to their swimming lessons at the YMCA Aquatic Center.  It was challenging to have three babies all under 4 years old, but I was so grateful to have these three sweet babies with me, considering my second term miscarriage less than a year before.  My previous miscarriage had cut me deeper than anything to date. The blessing of a healthy baby was not lost on me. I felt as though we prayed her into existence.

We went to ballet that night for Elise to take class. Jimmy, Jadelynn and I sat in the back. I rolled Hot Wheels back and forth with Jimmy with one hand, placed my other on my sweet girl’s head while we waited, meanwhile, Jadelynn’s feeding tube nourished her premature body. This. This was what I was dreaming of for the past year of my life, and now it was my reality. I was so happy.

Nine years and one day ago, I gave Jadelynn a bath, marveling at how small she was, how entrusted I felt to have such a miracle child, how grateful I was for all the doctors, and how excited I was that a respiratory therapist would be coming that night to teach Brian how to use the feeding tube machine, the oxygen machine and the heart monitor. I was starting to get tired, as I had to wake every two hours to load Jadelynn’s food, through the night. I thought often about how much we take for granted, and how hard Jadelynn was working to grow. The things that came naturally for my other children, like eating and breathing were now Jadelynn’s challenges. She had proven to be so strong, defying the doctor’s expectations and becoming a literal answer to our prayers.

Brian took a picture of us lying next to each other on my bed. She was so small, he put a bib next to her, and his ruler.

Nine years ago, I thought we’d have so many more of those sweet pictures.

Nine years ago today, everything changed.

I couldn’t see beyond the pool of tears constantly filling my eyes.

I couldn’t believe what was happening to my family.

I couldn’t imagine what tomorrow would bring, much less the next nine years.

Nine years ago, today, my husband and I changed our last diaper. We cleaned our last bottle. We had our last 3am feeding. We couldn’t imagine that it would all be ripped from us in such an unexpected way.

Nine years ago, today, Jadelynn’s alarms went off for the first time, in the arms of a respiratory therapist who immediately began infant CPR while I frantically called 911.

Nine years ago, today, I sat in an ambulance, staring at paramedics hovering over my precious daughter, trying to save her life, while Brian arranged for Elise and Jimmy to be watched, and then raced behind the ambulance to the hospital. With all the commotion, it was a miracle they didn’t wake up. It was 8pm.

Nine years ago, today, I sat in the cardiac room at the ER. They opened up the entire cardiac area, just for her. I had never seen so many doctors work on one person There must have been at least 10 other doctors and nurses in the room. I watched as they rhythmically pressed on her chest, watched the monitors, watched masked faces of the medical staff to see if there was any hope left in their eyes—watched my child’s body lay there, surrounded by so many strangers and wondered. Wondered if she hurt. Wondered if she knew I was there? Could she hear my heart speak to her? And I listened. Listened to these strangers who were now working into the midnight hours to save my Jadelynn, listened to the chaplain, listened to the last sounds of my baby.

I felt confused. She had just come home. The doctor’s said she was healthy enough to come home, this shouldn’t be happening.

I felt inexplicable pain.

Sadness. Grief. Despair. Longing.

Longing for one more chance to hold Jadelynn….that maybe if I could hold her, her heart would start beating again. Then more listening…” we have kept her heart beating for three hours, but we have never been able to stop. We can still keep her heart beating, but that’s just it. It would be us keeping her heart beating.  We could never stop, or she would be gone…we’re sorry…It’s time to say goodbye.”

Nine years ago, As Brian and I held her for the last time in the empty ER, we cried. No, we sobbed. Wept over our child. We held her, and held each other. We talked about our love for her. We kissed her, and felt her skin grow cooler, dreading the moment where we would have to leave the hospital. The hospital we had been praying to get her home from, was now the last place she would take a breath.  We talked about how this could have happened, and why this was now our reality.

But it didn’t really matter why it was, it just WAS. Nothing was going to change that.

Our hearts were broken. Where could we go? Where was our solace? Our comfort? The child the Lord had blessed us with had been called home. We didn’t know why. The doctors didn’t either.

Nine years ago today, Brian and I pulled ourselves together enough to go to the House of the Lord, the temple.

We went because of what it teaches us. Families can be together forever. Death is the gateway to eternal life and eternal families. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be cleansed and made worthy to enter the Kingdom of God where we knew our perfect baby would be, with her sister, who had left earth for her heavenly home just a year prior. I had taught these truths to so many others in Sunday School classes. If the temple promised peace, that’s where we desperately needed to be. We went, and it was the first peace either of us had had.

The pain and anguish was not diminished, but our capacity to endure this unbearable trial was increased. I know we were strengthened by going to the temple, pouring out our hearts in prayer, and waiting for His peace. We left, knowing that nothing would ever be the same, but that we were going to be okay.

Nine years ago, was a huge turning point in my life, where what I had been taught as a child, was called into action. I decided that no matter what, I needed to keep on this covenant path, exercise the gift of repentance, and qualify myself through the grace and mercy of God to enter back into His presence where my darling angels surely sit today.

This experience, like so many others, had the potential to utterly break me. But Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I testify that is TRUE. I could not have gone through the past nine years without Him, His great plan of happiness, His peace, and reassurance, that we were going to be okay. Nine years ago, I couldn’t hardly see past the next minute of my life. Today, I look forward to the next nine years and what they have in store for me as I walk alongside Him.