The Dress

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Ever since the day we were told about Annie, I feel like I have been grasping for some element of control. There were so many things discussed when we received her diagnosis that sent me scrambling to contain the situation and keep everything within my capabilities.

We were initially told by the Prenatal Diagnostics doctor and my OBGYN that we could discuss our “options” once we were able to digest the news. Although they never came out and said it I know they were offering us the opportunity to terminate. This was absolutely not an option for us and required minimal discussion between Robert and me. After discussing everything with us, it was very clear to our doctors by the nature of our questions that we were hoping and praying for a live birth, so the actual offer to terminate was never given. I will admit, however, that I understand more and more each day why some women decide to do so, and the further along I get in this pregnancy I find myself wondering at times if I knew then what I know now if I would make the same decision. Every kick is incredibly bittersweet. Every time a stranger asks when I’m due and if I know what I’m having, or makes the comment “Three girls! Daddy better have the shotgun ready!” I feel like I die a little more inside. These are normal comments and would be welcome if my baby were healthy, but I feel like I’m lying every time I answer with a smile and don’t tell them Annie’s story. I’m human, I’m pregnant, and I’m tired, so most of the time in line at Target or dropping the girls off at school I don’t really feel like getting into it. I have tried to just listen to the Lord and be aware of when I need to tell a stranger the real deal. I just can’t deal with that multiple times a day.

It also kills me to see my daughters’ faces when I’m overwhelmed with grief and can’t hold it in. Harper will run to me and hold my face in her chubby, sticky little hands with her face twisted with concern and say “What happened, Momma? Why you cryin?” Dylan, who is more aware of what’s going on, will usually hug me, kiss my belly and tell me she’s giving Annie kisses and she loves her. Initially we told them that the doctor told us Annie was sick and we needed to pray for her every day. A few weeks ago we decided that it would be better to give them time beforehand to process and ask tough questions while we are able to answer them and not swallowed in our own grief, so we sat Dylan down and told her exactly what was going to happen. We told her that Annie’s head was broken and she probably wouldn’t be able to come home with us, but she was going to go to heaven and live with Jesus. Her beautiful and perfect response was, “that’s good, right? He’ll protect her!” I’m so proud of that little girl and her strength that surpasses her mere 4 years on this earth. The things she says to me to lift me up when I need it can only be explained by a child’s innocence and closeness with Jesus. I feel like this experience is going to shape her life in a way Robert and I would have never been able to on our own. I am praying that God will show us how to protect Dylan and Harper through this, all while living His truth.

I have scoured the internet for information about anencephaly. I searched through countless research studies for hopeful statistics on live births versus still births, because I desperately want to have a few moments with my girl. I was feeling immense amounts of pressure to go buy the perfect outfit for Annie because it would likely be the only thing she would ever wear. I could feel my anxiety level spiraling out of control. Our doctors told us that if I had any issues with preeclampsia like I had with Harper, there would be no reason to hospitalize me and try to keep me pregnant. They explained that if there was any risk at all to my health, they would recommend delivering Annie because the outcome regarding her health would not change. Although I know they are right, and whether she were to be born at 33 weeks or 39 weeks her fate will likely be the same, it goes against every instinct I have as a mother to protect my baby. I felt like I had no control over any aspect of this pregnancy and this realization was making me panic. I couldn’t stop crying, there was nothing I could do, and I was losing my mind. Then I felt like the Lord reached down and steadied my shoulders and told me to stop. He told me to be still. He told me to let go. This situation was not mine to control. I needed to let Him have this, every single bit of it.

I listened to Him, and had been still for about a week when I got an email from our marriage counselor. (That’s right, we’re not perfect. 🙂 We’ve been a few times, and I don’t think we’d still be married if we hadn’t) Linda has been such a blessing to us, and we’ve been able to keep in touch via FaceBook. She knew about Annie from the initial diagnosis and had been praying for her and for us, and she sent me a message saying she had something for us. When we met up with her she was holding a beautifully wrapped gift for Annie, but I could tell she was a little hesitant to give it to us. She told us that there were very few times in her life that she felt the Lord was telling her to do something, and this was one of those times. She said that she didn’t want to offend or upset us, but this was something she really felt He wanted her to do. She also said that Annie felt like her own granddaughter because she had been praying for her so much, and that makes Robert and I so happy. We hugged and said goodbye, and after Rob and I got in the car I opened the gift. We both wept as we looked and saw inside that beautiful package was a perfect little white dress.

This dress may be just a dress to you. To me, it is a gift from my Father showing me that He has this. He has me, He has Robert, He has Annie, He has CONTROL over everything. This perfect little dress showed me that if I just trust, believe, and follow Him, He will take care of me. I also believe that He chose the deliverer of this dress wisely. It came from a woman who played an important role in helping us keep our family together. I believe that even though we are in the midst of the hardest time of our lives, God was showing us that we are exactly where we need to be. I love this gift more than I can say, and I especially love that any time I’m having weakness or doubts all my husband has to do is hug me and whisper into my ear, “remember the dress.” Then I am reminded of a Father’s love that is so much more powerful than death, sadness, and fear.

Being still and quiet also gave me some clarity about things. One of the things Robert and I thought of was a way to honor Annie in her death. We began to think of which charity that we could ask people to donate to in her honor in lieu of flowers. Then it hit us. What better thing to come from the loss of a child than to help another couple gain a child?! Our friends Eric and Kylie have been in the process of adoption from the Democratic Republic of Congo for some time. This process is long and expensive, so Robert & I asked them if we could help. We had planned on putting their information in Annie’s official announcement, but since I have started this blog I thought, why wait? If you would like to make a donation in Annie’s name, here is the link to their website:

http://www.gofundme.com/homesweethoma

Finally, this is a verse Linda was led to while praying for Annie.

Yes, you have been with me from birth;

From my mother’s womb you have cared for me.

No wonder I am always praising you!

My life is an example to many,

because you have been my strength and protection.

That is why I can never stop praising you;

I declare your glory all day long.

Psalms 71: 6-8

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11 thoughts on “The Dress

  1. Abbey- I cannot even begin to imagine what you’re going through right now. What a lucky little girl Annie is to have you as a mom and Robert as a dad. I’m sure you’re feeling so overwhelmed right now. I love how Dylan is helping you look at things with honesty and purity, especially during the most futile of times. Bless her sweet heart. You are such a strong, loving, beautiful, and graceful woman. I’m so glad you have such great support, and know that this circle extends farther than you know. Thanks for sharing your story. You can add one more person to the list of people praying constantly for you and Pistol Annie. “The Lord bless and keep you…” Love you lots, friend.

    • Thank you so much Kelly. You are so right about Dylan. She has brought such a beautiful perspective to the table (in the midst of her constant jabbering 🙂 ), and I am forever thankful for that. I wish you were closer so I could hug you! Family Camp 2014? 🙂

  2. Abbey-
    I know we don’t know each other well, I was in Em’s grade in high school. But I just wanted you to know how much my heart aches for you. When I was 18 and pregnant, my water broke randomly at 27 weeks. It would be two days before my son was born without a heartbeat. Those two days were the most gut wrenching days of my entire life. I felt like a ticking time bomb. I wanted desperately to keep him inside me and was holding out hope that maybe somehow he’d make it. But at just over a pound, he went to heaven before I delivered him. I can’t imagine the pain you are going through, but I can tell you that I’m praying for your family and little pistol annie ahern. If you ever need someone to watch the girls or bring a meal or just love on you, please let me know!

    • Andreya,
      Unfortunately through sharing my story I have found that so many women have a heartbreaking story of their own. I feel like I know you pretty well via our internet friendship 🙂 and I knew you had lost a child just through your posts, but I didn’t know the details. My heart hurts for you as well, and I know that this is a pain that will never leave either one of us. I appreciate your offer so very much, and I might take you up on it! Thank you, and I pray that you have found some healing with time.

  3. I have been crying and praying for you all day today….wish I was there to squeeze you and those sweet babies 😦

    • Thank you so much Amy. I love you more than you know. Do you know when you’ll be up this way? Christmas?
      PS- I’ll squeeze my girls for you if you’ll squeeze your kiddos for me.

  4. Abbey – you have such a way with words. To be able to convey these emotions and thoughts can’t be easy, but you do a beautiful job. I love Dylan’s response when you told her the situation. Absolutely perfect! You and Robert have taught her so well! I pray that you all continue to bring eachother encouragement and peace.
    So much love and prayers headed your way!

    • Thank you so much Jaymi. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed being with you guys last night. It is so wonderful to laugh with friends! And I also appreciate you and Amy listening and talking with me. You are a wonderful friend, and a great mother. Trey and #2 are so blessed to have you.

  5. Abbey, I am reading this through bittersweet tears. I cannot fathom the emotions you go through everyday but I do know that every picture you post of your sweet family I can always see what awesome strength and beauty in all of you. I’m hugging you through this message!!

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