Editor’s note: Angie Smith was 18 weeks pregnant with her fourth daughter, Audrey, when doctors discovered conditions leaving Audrey “incompatible with life.” Faced with the decision of whether to terminate the pregnancy, Angie and her husband chose to carry Audrey for as long as she had life. This began what turned out to be three months of loving and carrying a little girl who was not expected to live more than a few minutes outside the womb.
In fact, Audrey lived for over two hours, weighing three pounds, two ounces. The following is an excerpt of the story that chronicles her family’s journey of sorrow and loss, yet great joy.
The days after Audrey’s diagnosis were some of the hardest. I would wake up in the morning, and it would hit me over and over again that it was real. It seemed that every encounter with other people was so weighed down by the reality of my hurt that I could barely stand it. I avoided the never-ending phone calls, asking Todd to take over because I simply couldn’t talk about it anymore.
I decided to start writing a blog to keep our friends and family updated and to avoid the agony of having to retell everything over and over. It was good therapy for me to sit on my bed in silence and pour my heart out to the keyboard. I didn’t have to see the look in people’s eyes or watch them uncomfortably search for the right words when we both knew there just weren’t any.
Within a few days of the doctor’s appointment, we spoke to our pastor, and he arranged a prayer meeting at our church. I will never forget sitting in a circle with many of the deacons and several friends as they offered prayers to the lord on our behalf. I remember that evening being one of peace, and as each person spoke, the conviction in my spirit grew stronger. I felt more at ease than I imagined I could in such a situation. They read pertinent Scriptures in hushed tones as if the Lord Himself were sitting among us.
And He was.
As the intensity of our meeting rose, a storm raged outside. At one point, as someone was praying, the door blew open, and rain started pouring into the room. Two men struggled to close the doors as the wind relentlessly forced them open.
I felt like the Holy Spirit was speaking to all of us as the men finally sat, wiping their soaked faces. The Lord was in the rain. He was in the prayer.
He was in it all.
He wanted His presence known as this body of believers gathered on behalf of a little girl who would most likely never even get to see the church with her own eyes. That night I realized that, while I am an independent person who struggles with asking for help, this was a situation where I wasn’t going to have that liberty. I sat, fully humbled, as many I love spoke wisdom over me, and I admitted to myself that I was going to need help to get through this season of life.
Living life through the pain
Later that same week my dear friend Julie had a baby shower for the little girl she was expecting, and I couldn’t stand to miss it. Everyone there knew what was going on with me, and we all danced around it so that it wouldn’t dampen the spirit of the party. Julie isn’t the kind of person who operates well in the world of pretending. She is incredibly authentic and never shies away from whatever conversation will lead into the deep places.
I know that night was as torturous as it was beautiful for her, as she opened tiny pink onesies and bibs. Surrounded by gifts, her eyes searched mine as we all did our best to get through the night. At one point we gathered around her and took turns praying over her sweet baby. As petitions for a healthy child and a smooth delivery filled the room, I felt my heart start to pound. Audrey was kicking me gently, persistently, and the tears started to fall. Audra and my friend Jessica held my hands, and before we knew it, a sniffling noise filled the room. It was hard to tell if they were tears of joy or of sorrow.
I can distinctly remember the way grief and joy danced together, as if they had a right to.
As the prayer time ended, I knew I needed to leave. My face was beet red, and as much as I knew nobody begrudged me for it, I didn’t want to take away from the celebration. Everyone started to move into the kitchen for snacks, and I walked over to Julie to say good-night. Her makeup was smudged, and her eyes were wet with agony. She grabbed me and pulled me to her. As our stomachs pressed against each other, we both broke down and sobbed.
She kept whispering how sorry she was, and I just buried my head in her shoulder and let it out, grasping for sanity in the chaos. After a few minutes I snuck out the front door and fumbled with my car keys for what seemed like forever. As I drove away, I saw Julie through the windows wiping her face, the whole house lit up like Christmas while I sat in my quiet car.
Right beside me
As I drove, I began to pound the steering wheel and scream. I literally beat it with my fists and wailed as I begged the Lord to heal her.
“You can do it, God. If you wanted to, You could fix her. Fix her. Fix her … Oh, Lord, fix her.”
It was storming, and as the windshield wipers cleared just enough rain for me to see the road, I let myself shout until I was weak. I continued to shake for the rest of the drive, and it was one of the first times I remember really allowing myself to feel the unbelievable agony of what I was facing. It was also one of the first times I would say I sensed Him there, right beside me.
The One who can.
I embraced something that night that I will never forget, and it has continued to shape my walk with Him. He isn’t threatened by my heartbreak and questioning any more than He is threatened by a rainstorm.
He knows that rain will fall.
He knows that I will fall.
And so, on a long drive home, I gave my deepest hurt to the Father who wanted nothing less than every bit of it.
What I needed to learn about myself was clear in that moment. I did believe in Him enough to call out. I trusted Him enough to share the brokenness, even though He already knew it all. I thought about what it must feel like not only to know that one of your children is hurting but what it would mean to you if she told you herself—if she came to you because she wanted it to be a shared grief.
And so as the rain fell, the wipers wiped, and the Lord listened, I let Him into a place I had never fully invited Him before.
A place of communion where I could rest knowing He heard me.
A place I would reside for months to come.
Excerpted from I Will Carry You by Angie Smith. © 2010 by Angie Smith. All Rights Reserved. Published by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.