Loving and Losing My Child

By Brittani Schmidt

By sharing her tragic story with such transparency and spiritual awareness, Brittani reveals how God’s presence and love met her in her greatest hours of need.

A few years ago, my world turned upside down. What should have been a joyful time was far from it. My husband and I were expecting our third child with bated breath. We were going to have three small children under the age of five. For the most part, life was bliss and getting better.

We suppose most couples fear one of those alarming phone calls about an endangered child or the doctor sitting them down for a talk of tragic proportions. Such a moment came for us when I was at eighteen weeks’ gestation. Highly abnormal test results indicated a problem with our baby. Thanksgiving (2011) was only two days away, and we found ourselves at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis. The specialized ultrasound produced results that stopped our world. We suspected Down Syndrome based on previous consultations with doctors, but the scan revealed a much worse diagnosis. Our son did not develop kidneys.

He would not be able to live outside my womb. Nearly paralyzing grief overtook us.

The journey of carrying my son Elijah lasted another fourteen weeks. And during this time God showed up—in big and small ways. In everyday activities. In the love of his people.

From the very day of that fateful diagnosis, the Lord and his church surrounded and carried us. Some days getting out of bed seemed an insurmountable feat. Some days the tears hardly stopped flowing. But the magnitude of our pain was met with intense love and calculated acts of kindness.

A dear friend, who at the time was more of an acquaintance, brought us dinner every Monday. She wanted a tangible weekly reminder to pray for us and love on us. Friends, family, and church members called often. Many sent flowers, prayed for us “without ceasing,” and watched our children on short notice. They allowed us to have some times alone to process our situation, basically, to survive. Their actions regularly reminded us that we were not alone.

The magnitude of our pain was met with intense love and calculated acts of kindness.

Though the time was heartbreaking, I am so thankful for it. I would never trade away the months, the moments I carried Elijah. I would have missed the palpable presence of God that covered us. I would never trade who I am now for who I was before.

The ripple effect from Elijah’s abbreviated life continues to amaze me. We never could have anticipated the depth of learning and range of blessings that followed. By fully trusting God, we hopefully allowed his work to be done. We continue to experience growth; our lives’ changes are certainly still in motion. All praise to the One who is able to do this!

Elijah was intensely loved in his seventy-three minutes with us.

Elijah’s earthly journey ended in the early hours of a blustery Leap Day morning. In that quiet hospital room, with my husband and best friend, Elijah was intensely loved in his seventy-three minutes with us. He was dedicated over the phone by Pastor Steve DeNeff, who was out of state, and in person by Pastor Judy Crossman. We would later learn that at the same moment Elijah left us, Pastor Steve was prompted to again consecrate our baby to the Lord. What a beautiful welcome home he must have received!

I sit now, rocking my six-month-old daughter, a surprise blessing from God. I listen to her tiny breaths and daily thank God for his continued faithfulness in all the seen and unseen moments of my life. I praise him for never leaving my side, in the sorrow and in the joy. I praise him for real, authentic friends who so beautifully “do life” with us at College Wesleyan Church. And I praise him for his relentless love, a small taste of which I get to lavish on my children, the ones I can hold in my arms here, and my Elijah, whom I will always hold in my heart.

Faith Made Real

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Originally “Carrying Elijah: The Transformative Journey of Loving and Losing My Child,” edited by Jerry Pattengale with Steve DeNeff and Emily Vermilya, excerpted from Faith Made Real: Everyday Experiences of God’s Power (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2017).