A journey of hope and healing after a decade of infertility and two maternal near-misses.

The Tale of Two Survivors

One year ago today, I sat in the car in my sister's driveway in tears.  We had just attended a small group Bible study at a friend's house.  It was my first time out of the house for something other than a doctor’s appointment and I was so incredibly weary.  There really are no words to sufficiently convey the tremendous weight of this type of weariness.  Crushed physically, mentally and in spirit, I was just beginning to pick up the pieces of our life that had been shattered by a catastrophic series of events over the previous six months.

I remember looking at my sister in the dark car while the words just poured out. "There has to be a greater purpose!  There must be someone out there who will go through some sort of hell for the Lord to have brought me through all of this.”  While I knew God was using this trial to build character and perseverance in me, I was also acutely aware that God intended to use it to help someone someday.  I didn’t know when or where.  I envisioned it would be years or even a few decades from now.  What I didn't expect was to learn her name the very next morning.

A friend from my church asked me for suggestions on how to encourage her long distance friend who had given birth to a son the week before and found herself going through a similar nightmare as mine.  Aside from praying, I told her to send cards and text them often so they could feel the love and support all around them.  I began praying with such intensity for this woman and her family starting from that day, all the while intimately knowing the challenges she faced both in the hospital and beyond it.  I had never met her but I instantly felt a connection to her.  A day later, when it was becoming clear she would survive, I offered to talk to her if she wanted to get in touch with a fellow postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) survivor.   

Candace took me up on the offer and reached out a week or so later.  She was the very first survivor I had contact with and our shared experience bonded us almost immediately.  We never asked to be a part of this sisterhood of suffering but we were thankful to have it.  We texted at all hours of the day and night while caring for our newborns during those first few months.  So often, I would wake for a middle of the night feeding and glance at my phone for the time to see Candace had sent a text during one of her middle of the night feedings.  We felt relief to know we were experiencing a lot of the same things, which meant it must be normal, right?  While Candace would say I encouraged her, she was a lifeline to me too.  God knew exactly what I needed in that moment in my sister’s driveway all the while knowing what Candace was about to go through.  For years, (yes, YEARS!) He had been orchestrating the intersection of our paths bringing it to perfect fruition during the births of our firsts and the devastation of our near-death experiences.  What an amazing God we have!  We have yet to meet in person but when we do, I have no doubt that it'll probably be at a blood drive and we'll be crying many happy tears and comparing our battle scars.  Because God's great mercies are new every morning, and Candace is one of those mercies to me.  

A few weeks ago, Candace sent me the canvas pictured above to celebrate my first survival anniversary.  It meant so much, especially coming from someone who knows the heavy emotions, thoughts and memories that make anniversaries such a hard day.  But it was a day that allowed me to close a perilous chapter in our story and turn that final war-torn page to a fresh, new chapter with hope for the future.  My survival anniversary meant that I could finally start looking at a lot of the really scary things from my rear view mirror.  As Candace celebrates her survival anniversary this week, my prayer is that she feels this same sense of moving forward too.  The burden of survivorship really does start to get lighter. 

We are a tale of two survivors.  We are another example of God's mysterious way of giving beauty for ashes.  We never wanted to be the faces of maternal near misses but we don’t get to pick our trials.  We don’t get to decide what will crush us.  We don’t have the option to choose what will make us desperate for Jesus, but God gives each of us opportunities to turn our pain into something beautiful.

Tomorrow is Candace's one year survival anniversary and this week happens to be 54 days since I donated on my own survival anniversary in October… which means if we lived closer, I could donate blood with her on her anniversary too.  While distance prohibits that (at least for this year), I will be donating later today and this donation is for you, Candace.  This one is for you.


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