That We Might Have Joy: Sarah's Story

I'm so glad Shantelle is including me in this project. I feel very strongly that we are not meant to go through trials alone. Throughout my own story, it was most often through other people that God answered my prayers and helped me know I was not alone. I hope by spreading Alma's story a little further, I can help others who have gone through a similar experience as me (or who just need a little light and hope) to know they are not alone.

My husband, Jayze, and I were married July 31, 2012. After about four months, we felt like it was time to try having children. A couple of months later, I was thrilled to see the two lines on the pregnancy test indicating I was pregnant. We were pregnant! I told Jayze that very night at the dinner table with a cute little card that said he was going to be a dad. It all felt surreal at the time, but we were already giddy with excitement. We were going to be parents!

During the next nine months we attended classes (we both went to college), worked part-time, found out we were having a baby BOY, celebrated our one-year anniversary, and moved into a bigger apartment. I remember feeling the soft, new baby clothes and laying them across my bulging stomach, trying to imagine how a person could fit in such tiny clothes. I remember Jayze and I spent most of a Saturday morning lovingly cleaning and setting up the crib together. Often, I would come home from school and work, sit in our glider with my feet on the footstool, look around the baby room, and anticipate rocking our baby in my arms. We were so excited. I couldn't wait to be a mom!

But, on August 27, 2013, my dream shattered. It was at my 11:00 a.m., 37-week appointment when I heard the words, "I'm sorry, but I can't find the heartbeat."

Shock set in. An ultrasound verified my baby's passing. After that, everything was a blur. Tearful phone calls to our families...a quick check from the doctor to see if I was dilated at all...Jayze and I squeezing each other's hands while clenching tissues in our other hands...being gently guided to the exit with instructions for an induction scheduled in a couple of days time...denial and acceptance ripping at my heart and mind. How could our baby be gone?

In the early morning a couple of days later, Jayze and I drove to the hospital to have our long-awaited baby boy. In spite of the circumstances and heartbreak, the labor and delivery went perfectly. At 11:42 a.m., I gave birth to a beautiful, dark-haired baby boy. He was 6 lbs. 2 oz and was 20 inches long. His fingers and toes were just like Jayze's, and his nose, ears, and mouth were just like mine. We named him Alma Jayze Flake. He was perfect in every way except that no sound ever escaped his tiny mouth. Our angel Alma was born sleeping.

I could tell you of the weeks after...my job accepting me back at work. Adding more classes to my school schedule. Putting on a brave face. Having breakdowns at the most random and inconvenient times. Searching desperately for peace and healing. Trying to fill my heavy, empty arms. Feeling confused and ashamed at how much anger I felt. Dodging the baby section at Walmart. Avoiding eye-contact with babies and toddlers. Longing with all of my heart for my baby I only got to hold for one precious day.

Looking back, I remember so much grief, darkness, and bitterness in the weeks and months following Alma's death.

Trying so hard to get out of bed every morning. Trying to go to my classes. Trying to focus on homework. Trying to go to work. Trying not to snap out at other parents who didn't seem grateful for what they had. Trying to keep all of my emotions inside in public. Trying to find the courage to face every single day without my baby. Trying to find any sliver of healing.

It was more difficult than I can say. It was hard to see the good because it seemed the bad far outweighed the good.

But, also looking back, I remember tiny shards of light. My bonfire of faith was put out, but dark, glowing embers were still there. Small tender mercies helped me get through each day. Different scriptures popped out at me, and provided an anchor. Blog posts written by others going through similar things helped me know I wasn't crazy. Random songs played on the radio allowed me to weep in the privacy of my car.

There were tender mercies that came directly through other people specifically for Jayze and me, too.

The mounds of letters and packages we received from loved ones. A quote taped to my front door. A friend asking me how much Alma weighed, if he had any hair, and if we thought he looked more like Jayze or me. Being invited to baby showers and game nights. Others asking sincerely and with love how I was really doing and giving me a safe space to talk and cry.

The darkness was still there, but I can see now that there were small amounts of healing every day, little by little. I felt angels helping me along, both earthly and heavenly. I felt others' love for me, and through them (as well as through personal soul-searching), I felt Heavenly Father's love for me. The quote from Spencer W. Kimball I saw every day at work rang even more true to me and sank even deeper into my heart:

"God does notice us, and he watches over us. 
But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs."

I still couldn't hold someone's baby - even my own nieces and nephews. I still cried after every baby shower. I still felt crushed every time I saw a pregnant woman. BUT, there was hope and healing along the way, even if I didn't always recognize it in the moment.

Losing Alma was such a harrowing experience. At times I felt anguish and despair and didn't know if I was really going to make it through. Yet, Heavenly Father didn't give up on me. It was because of Him, my Savior Jesus Christ, and others acting in Their behalf, that I'm able to recognize now that those beautiful, pure embers of light shining through the darkness were my moments of pure JOY.

Those tender mercies that happened every single day was joy being offered to me...it was my choice whether or not I would accept it or not. Joy was having a job to go to. Having classes to distract me. Having loved ones nearby even though my family lived miles away. Having special and sacred memories of Alma to hold onto. Having a loving husband who shared in my grief. And most importantly, having a loving Heavenly Father on my side whom I could to to in prayer at any time, no matter what, and He would be there.

Joy can also be found NOW in the things that came because of losing Alma. Joy that my husband and I grew even closer in our marriage. Joy that prayer works and answers do come. Joy that I'm able to get outside of myself and serve even when I feel broken. Joy that Jesus Christ is aware of me and knows me by name. Joy that this life isn't the end. Families are forever!

I am grateful that this trial has taught me (and is still teaching me) to cherish the tender mercies that come every day. They're there if I just look for them. I'm grateful for people like Shantelle who are willing to be vulnerable in order to help even just one person during his or her hard times. And I'm grateful for an all-knowing God who wants me to turn to Him and learn from Him and have JOY.

"So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. 
Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever."
~ Jeffrey R. Holland ~ 

If you want to follow Sarah's story, you can check out her inspirational BLOG.

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