By Genevieve Wagner
Genevieve is a dear friend of mine for many years. She has graciously agreed to share her family’s recent full term stillbirth, and the hope and faith that her family has.
After the birth, our family photographer was allowed to come back while I was getting stabilized – we wanted to make sure I was okay before calling the children back. Soon they came to the room with our friends who had been watching them as well as our pastor. They were surprised to find out the baby was a boy – that brought my son to tears. They were each offered the chance to hold him if they wanted to. Pastor read from Job and from Psalms, we sang Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart and pastor prayed a blessing over our new son, thanking God in His wisdom for giving Sebastian to us and for taking him back Home (our family photographer picked up my phone and recorded a video of that moment, something I treasure and have rewatched many times). Over the course of the next 24 hours we would see 6 different pastors visit to bring us comfort, as well as our Elder and his wife, Sebastian’s intended Godparents, other dear friends, and the photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. All prayed with us, offered their support and condolences, some held the baby, others couldn’t handle it, and we welcomed them to do either. They wept with us. They laughed with us. They loved us and our baby boy.
I was able to bathe Sebastian before the funeral home driver came to take him away. That was the hardest moment of the whole ordeal, somehow making it more real that I was actually going to have to leave my baby. I was given almost 24 hours with him and something like 500 photos. Those are memories I treasure, especially when hearing stories of others who were given an hour and a Polaroid or two and sent on their way.
The next two weeks brought funeral planning, grave site selection, funeral clothes buying – all at the same time as normal (and some abnormal) childbirth recovery. I knew my child wasn’t coming home, in theory I could get some sleep and recover. But I forgot about things like the abdominal pain of my baby’s former home in my uterus needing to shrink back down, my milk coming in with no baby to relieve the engorgement pain. I had that external version under some very good and strong pain medication – but I had ibuprofen to help with the bruised muscles and skin from the hard work the doctors did to turn Sebastian for birth. And grief – losing a child – showed up physically as well as emotionally. We all picked up a respiratory infection just for kicks, my children were grieving and acting out, we had family coming in from all over the country for the funeral. We were a mess. But Christ wasn’t. He was the Rock, the Solid Ground we had to cling to, and at times cling was all we could do. None of this was right. This wasn’t how the story was supposed to end. But in a sinful, sin-filled world, there was nothing special about us as to why it shouldn’t. The wages of sin is death. Thanks be to God that Christ died to sin so that we could be united to Him in eternal life in Heaven. Time and again we were reminded of Scripture’s promises of that rest in Christ and, someday, our joining our son in Heaven in Christ’s presence. That God, in His mercy, had receive unto Himself our baby boy who had not been able to be baptized just like he received David’s 7 day old son who could not yet be circumcised under Jewish law. And just like David declared of his son in II Samuel, we knew Sebastian would not return to us, but one day we will go to him.
And so we wait. We are four months removed from Sebastian’s birth and death. 4 month olds are about my favorite baby stage. Having raised 4 other children, I get what we’re missing right now, and that’s rough. I also have just the tiniest glimpse of what Sebastian has right now from Scripture, and I wouldn’t wish to take that away from him. We grieve for our son, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We continue to rely on the God who lead us beside a different kind of still waters and continues to restore our souls. Friends let us know we remain in their prayers. We are comforted with the fact that Sebastian heard of and knew his Savior though hearing my voice pray with our family nightly and in church every week, in talking with my friends and my midwife about a God who blessed us with this child from the moment of his conception. Had we known the pain that would come out of this pregnancy, neither my husband nor I would have changed a thing. I am so thankful for Sebastian, the gift our Lord gave and our Lord took away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.