Burying a child was never in my life’s plan. Like most parents, it was only a distant, “absolute worst nightmare,” type of thought, tucked way back in the corner of my mind. That worst nightmare became the reality I was suddenly faced with.
We went in for a routine ultrasound appointment and as this was our 4th child, this wasn’t our “first rodeo.” We arrived eager to learn if this new precious life was a boy or a girl. Moments later, jelly on the belly, sex was determined, but something was wrong. We were given a diagnosis that our baby was “incompatible with life.” Within seconds, what seemed like a gallon of tears quietly ran down the side of my face and landed on that cold exam table. My husband’s hand continued to comb through my hair and his other hand grabbed hold of mine. As I stared up at the ceiling, a million thoughts instantly flashed through my mind.
“Incompatible with life?” What? How? I was a healthy 33-year-old mom! We had prayed for this! I have longed for this 4th child all of my life! How was this happening to me?
I heard stories about situations like these or read about them in magazines, but I never dreamt that something that could, would, or should actually happen to me!
Yet, it was. Suddenly, I was the statistic. Not because God was a mean God, or was singling us out, but rather, because we live in a fallen world, and sometimes hard things just happen. They don’t make sense, and likely never will this side of heaven, but I repeat…sometimes bad things simply happen.
Time seemed to stand still that day in mid-July. I remember coming home and falling onto our bed with tears that seemed to never stop flowing. It was hard to breathe and all I could think was, “how on earth I was going to be able to bury my child?” There was nothing about that overwhelmingly horrific concept that was remotely okay, yet, barring a miracle from God above, it was going to happen.
We were given the choice to either terminate the pregnancy within the next few weeks, or we could carry the baby to term, or carry until the baby passes away in my womb; whichever came first. As a family, we made the only choice we could – to carry this precious child for as long as God would allow.
With much anticipation, we waited and prayed that maybe the doctors were somehow wrong this one time. We held onto the hope of a miracle, knowing and believing that God could heal her, but with little to no expectation that He would. For the next 4 months, I carried a precious baby girl that we knew full-well was going to pass away, all the while caring for our 5-, 3-, and 1-year-olds. We attempted to somehow help them make sense of the unfathomable reality that their littlest sister, moving inside of momma’s tummy, wouldn’t get to come home. We talked as openly as we could with the kids, answering each question as it arose. I vividly remember trying my best to hold back tears on many occasions as I reminded them that “sometimes bad things happen that we don’t and won’t understand, but God is still good.”
In October 2011, we welcomed our beautiful 4th child, Julia Grace Watson, into this world. For eighty minutes, we held her and cherished her. Then, just like that, she was gone. We knew what to expect but there is nothing that can truly prepare you for holding your baby as she slips away.
I’ll never forget laying in that hospital bed for the next 3 days recovering from my c-section and blood clots, hearing the cries of other sweet newborn babies. When I was released to go home, I was wheeled down the hall past the other moms and their newborns. These moms had the same dreams and the same scars, yet I was the mom without my baby. My arms were entirely empty and my heart was entirely broken, shattered into a million pieces.
I share this story with you, not for sympathy, but rather to allow you a small window into the journey of the indescribable pain of losing a child. Some of you may know this pain first-hand, and you, unfortunately, know that it is suffocating. I am here to assure you that whatever trial you might face in this life, there is still true joy on the other side of sorrow.
While we walked a road and joined a club that we never wanted to be a part of, God was there with us. He is still with us today, reminding us of His goodness and showing us His love.
Life doesn’t have to make sense for us to trust that God is good. He simply is good! Unfortunately, in this imperfect world, we will experience hardships and difficulties. At times, life will unfair or seem to bring more than we can possibly bear.
In the face of hardship, people often ask themselves, “Why me, Lord?” Our experience allowed me to take a step back and say, “Why not me, Lord?” God never promised me a perfect life free of heartache, suffering, or pain. In fact, it’s quite the opposite (John 16:33). He did, however, promise that He would be with me, guide me, and that He would never leave. God is so faithful, and no matter what comes my way, I know that He will be there.
Trusting God and His plan is a choice. At times, it feels like the easiest choice in the world to trust your creator, the one who loves you more than you can fathom. It is easier to trust when you are in a field of abundant blessings. Other times, it can seem like you have to remind yourself hour by hour, minute by minute, that His plans are greater than ours, whether or not we like the plan. But either way, it is a choice. I constantly reminded myself in the midst of the storm to choose faith over fear.
I didn’t grow angry with God our doubt His love for me. I trust God and His plans for me based on the overwhelming evidence of His love for me. I see it when I look at my three perfectly healthy, fearfully and wonderfully made children. I see it when I look at my husband who makes me feel adored and cherished. I see it when I read His word. My faith is built on a solid rock and I believe Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Growing up, I never imagined I would be where I am today. I never dreamt that I would eventually marry a full-time touring country music artist, walk red carpets, appear in music videos, and travel all over the world. And after burying a child, I never imagined I would be where I am today either. It seemed impossible that I would continue to live, laugh, and love. Yet, by the grace of God, I do.
Experiencing the deep pain of child-loss has shaped Aaron and me to our cores. Thanks to the platform of his country music career, we are able to share our faith and total dependence on God. That is a responsibility we do not take lightly. It is an honor to be able to stand and proclaim that “even if… God is still good!” By keeping our faith in God and clinging to the hope that only His promises can provide, we have come out stronger on the other side. Life is full of ups and downs and we have certainly had our fair share of those. But life is truly beautiful, and with Jesus by your side, you can withstand anything. My encouragement for anyone is to cling to Him, always, and never, ever, ever – no matter what – never let go!