I have repeated his story often, but rarely in much detail. Almost like I’m trying to protect the listener, honestly though, I’m only protecting myself from the inevitable pain in my chest. In the early years after we lost Gavin, it was hard to even say his name out loud. I would get nervous, shake, and become irrationally emotional. My stomach would feel immediately sick. I felt trapped, anxious and confused and there was no way around it. Over the years, I have learned to honor his life while telling his story. Rarely do I share the whole story. I stick to the parts that don’t make me sick to my stomach or the ones that do not evoke the strongest of emotions, but that changes today! Here is our precious Gavin Paul’s story, including the raw and heart breaking details. Please read it all the way to the end. I can’t wait to tell you about the day everything shifted and we allowed God to begin the healing process in our hearts.
On the evening of January 4th, 2010, we danced for joy in the kitchen celebrating a positive pregnancy test! Only one month prior, we had suffered a miscarriage. We had no idea we were pregnant, so the news had both shocked and devastated us. Our hearts raced and minds reeled with this information as we stared at the positive test. The timing didn’t make sense, but we were young and naive. We embraced the positive test and the hope of our future. We would soon be a family of four and we were telling everybody!! Before we realized what was happening, we were at the Dr. every other day. My body was fighting every second of the pregnancy, but Gavin was a fighter! Every ultrasound, he would show off. Flipping, kicking and giving some of the sweetest facial expressions. He always measured big and he was perfectly formed. We were hopelessly, madly in love with our little boy. He was growing well and despite the insanity of my contractions and other pregnancy complications, he was the picture of health. Like any parents, we believed everything our Dr. said and truly believed we were receiving the best care possible. This Dr. was the same man who delivered my oldest son without any drama or malpractice, leaving me with nothing but trust as an option.
During the months to follow, I would be on and off of bed rest. This was complicated to explain to my boss, but she rolled with it for a while. I traveled for my job. I remember hating being away from my husband and son, but not feeling alone, because I had my boy with me. He would dance in my womb to the beat of music playing in my car and his powerful kicks while I was working, reminded me my dream was coming true. I dreamed of the day I could see him dancing, laughing and sleeping in my backseat. Hours would fly by when I would day-dream of how he would change our family dynamic. Little did I know, I would never see him in my backseat, his tiny feet would never run across my floor and I would never kiss his round little face, but he would forever leave his footprint in our lives.
April 27th, mid-afternoon, I called my husband and asked him to meet me at the Dr’s office. Something didn’t feel right and my bleeding had increased. I was certain Gavin hadn’t moved all day and I wondered if I was in actual labor this time. Not once did I think I was losing him, I was certain he would be born safely! It is very hard to know the difference between pre-term labor and the real deal when you are fighting delivery the whole pregnancy. We did the right thing and went directly to the Dr.’s office. Looking back, I know I was in early labor that particular day. This was not the type bed rest can delay, but the type of labor that means a child may be born within 24 hours. On this particular day, the nurse who saw me decided that I was ok. After a failed attempt at finding Gavin’s heartbeat and counting mine as his, they sent us home to rest until my appointment the next week. Within hours, he was kicking again and we took a deep breath. Everything was ok. We were told this is normal and I was put back on bed rest. Giving me more time to dream of holding him in my arms, while I counted his kicks as he partied into the night. Apparently all the sleeping he had done during day meant he could not sleep that night.
April 28th was a long day. We breathed a deep sigh of relief with every kick and movement. I was on hight alert, everything in me was saying something was not right, but my Dr. was saying otherwise. So, I waited, counted and prayed for his safety and health.
April 29th became the day I would both celebrate and mourn for years to come. I had woke up early this particular morning after a long night of restless sleep. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I knew I was in labor. Since I was in labor, I decided my husband didn’t need to come with me, because he could just meet us at the hospital after they admitted us. That’s the way it works, right? You go to the Dr., they check you, find you in labor and send you to the hospital to deliver. However, I would become the exception to the rule. I didn’t bother taking my son to school, instead, I loaded him up. We picked up my little sister because she so badly wanted to go to an ultrasound with me, from mom’s, we went straight to the Dr. office to be checked. I was certain we would meet our boy within hours. I knew he would spend time in NICU, but I just knew he would be ok!! We sat at the Dr’s office until mid-afternoon. Gavin was kicking all morning, until he wasn’t. I was frustrated and feeling hopeless as I sat there waiting and praying. I walked to the receptionist window several times, asking if the Dr. was back yet and if I could be seen. Finally, they called me back. I was praying he was just sleeping and this would be the only reason his moving had stopped, but that is not how his story was written. The Dr. performed the ultrasound and the room was engulfed in silence. My oldest child, who had attended many ultrasounds with me asked where his heart beat was. The truth was too much to speak and my sweet little sister stepped out of the room with him. His heart had stopped! I would never hear the tender swishing of his strong heart again. Everything felt final and confusing. Why did I tell my husband to stay at work? What about my oldest son? How would I tell him his brother had passed away, before ever having a chance to take his first breath? How would I comfort him and keep his heart intact through this loss? Would I be ok? I sat on the Dr’s office bench wondering what would happen next, as my mind raced with questions. I was handed a tissue box and the Dr. hugged me for a brief minute while I bawled my eyes out. I wanted my husband by my side, but he couldn’t get there quick enough. I also had to tell my husband that I was unable to carry his son. To be honest, I do remember if I called him or if the nurse did. Things shifted very quickly. Instead of being rushed over to the hospital, in the same parking lot, I was given an address to a Woman’s Birthing Center and told my husband would meet us there. I will never know where I gathered the strength to walk out of the office that day, but I did. I walked through a room full of pregnant women. I tried to hold it together so they weren’t worried… like they could have even known what was happening in my womb. My mom picked up my son and my sister. The next impressive part of the story is this, I drove an hour to my next appointment with the Dr. who would deliver Gavin into this world. While I drove, the contractions increased, however, the crushing, excruciating pain my heart was experiencing was far worse than the pain my body was in. Tears fell as I drove and I just prayed it wasn’t true. I begged God to wake me up, to perform a miracle… anything but this. My husband and I were the only ones in the waiting room. We waited there for at least an hour, very pregnant, very sad and very lost. I remember feeling safe there. The room was spacious, inviting and when the Dr. arrived, he was warm and kind, with gentle eyes. He performed Gavin’s last ultrasound. I was praying for a miracle and I was beyond disappointed at the lack of a heartbeat. I had really wanted to see a miracle with my boy. I knew his heart had stopped. I didn’t want to believe it. I was never in denial, but my faith was shook. Why would God allow this to happen to us? How could we move on without our son? We were promised this warm, inviting room the next morning. This is the space where we would hold our son, wrap him up, take pictures, count his toes and tell him that we would see him again soon. In that space, we would mourn the loss of our sweet boy and celebrate all the days we carried him. We would hold him, if only for a while. We were guaranteed a safe delivery in this birthing room and an ambulance on hold, should anything should go wrong. This provided us some comfort in this midst of the chaos. We were confused and wondering why we couldn’t deliver because I was so close, but we were thankful for a room and space to just be with him. We were promised time and a quiet space to just be together the following day.
After leaving the second Dr’s office for the day, we realized that I had not eaten all day. We drove to the nearest restaurant, which just happened to be a KFC. I will never forget the mashed potatoes and gravy I ate that day. It was the worst food I had ever had or maybe just the worst day I had ever experienced? Either way, it was seriously the worst. It could be because my world was falling apart or it might be directly related to the two people that asked me how far along I was and when I was due. They were kind as they told me I was beautiful and glowing. They could not have known my reality. I just replied, “Soon.” This was the truth and it would have to work. Soon I would deliver my son. He would be born sleeping. The concept wasn’t one I had prepared myself for and I had no idea how to do this. I had only delivered a child that was fighting for his life. Now, only I could fight for Gavin. My last act of care for him would be to deliver him safely into this world. I had hours to fight through before I could deliver him, so we shoved food down our throats and headed home. I am not sure how I got home. I remember the first song to play on the radio though. It was called, “Your Hands” by JJ Heller. What a beautiful song and gentle reminder from the Lord. Our world was shaking, but his hands were not. Through tears and contractions, I followed my husband as he led the way home in his vehicle ahead of me. We arrived safe at home an hour later. Remember that young and naive part I mentioned earlier in this story? I should have been in a hospital room by then, instead, I sat on my couch all night. With worship music playing quietly, I cried, begging God to change this somehow. I watched the sun disappear on what I believed was the worst day of my life and watched the sun rise on the day that would become the absolute worst day we would ever experience together.
April 30th arrived too quickly. It was time to deliver our son. The child who only I knew so well. On this day, 9 years ago, I would have my son ripped from my body and I would never see him again. It is all a blur, yet every second of the day is engraved in my memory. If I close my eyes, I remember the drive there. Jason at the wheel, the brutal silence, the immense pain, relentless contractions and the ominous feeling, life would never be the same for us. No one could have prepared us for the amount of heartbreak we would endure that morning! We met my god-mom on the way to deliver Gavin. To spare you reading extra words, I will call her, Mom, from here on, because that is exactly who she is to me. The medicine they had given me to induce labor made me so sick. I was already in labor, but I followed the rules. When prescribed, we understood this medicine was much like pitocin, just in the form of a pill. We would learn years later, it was an abortion pill. It was meant to force labor. The pain was unbearable. I will never forget the way my mom wrapped her arms around me. I do not know how she reached around both the chair and me, but I was held. It didn’t stop the contractions, but it calmed my anxiety and fear. She reminded me to breath and broke the silence with prayer. After 30 more minutes in the car, we pulled into the Women’s Center we had been at the day before. Everything was different though. There was a large, old truck parked near the entrance. Massive, disgusting signs leaned again the truck. Pictures of mutilated baby bodies. Words, I do not remember, telling us not to kill our baby. Every sign, descriptive and sickening. We were shook, but in need of medical attention and immediately. My husband dropped us off at the door and my mom accompanied me inside. As soon as I was out of the car, the old man near the truck whipped out his mega-phone and began to yell at me. He told me to stop and not to kill my baby. I was obviously very far into my pregnancy. I’m a small woman, so when I am pregnant, I look very pregnant. He told me that I was murdering my child… It felt like a bad dream. I don’t think it’s completely important to tell you all I said, but among the words I threw back, I did scream back, “MY BABY IS ALREADY DEAD!”. I wish I could find the words to express the way I felt in the exact moment, but they still escape me. I was angry. Angry at the man for judging me and doing what he was doing, my doctor for lying to me, and so angry at my body for letting us down. I was not angry with God at that moment, but it would happen and without me even realizing it. As I was screaming at him, we were walking in the doors. Quickly, we were surrounded by nurses and I was carried up a flight of stairs, we turned and went up one more. They did not want me to scare their other clients away. I could see down a long empty, grey corridor. No one was there, just light from a window at the end. We turned one more time and went through a locked door. They placed me in the first room to the right and shut the door behind me. They asked my mom to leave the room, so she did, telling me she would get Jason and send him to me. I would only be alone for a few moments.
Alone and afraid, I waited. He never came. I would find out years later, he was afraid, in a waiting room. He tried to get to me and was not allowed.
The small room filled up quick. A guy beside me, two nurses at my side, a Dr. between my legs and an attendant behind him. The Dr. forcefully and without a numbing agent removed the stents used to help me dilate completely. This is when I became undone. Nothing was going as promised. I was in a cold, small room without my husband. Yelling, protesting, begging for my husband and asking to leave is the last thing I remember. Apparently abortion clinics do not let you leave. They immediately pushed medicine into my veins and I woke up later. When I woke up, I was in a recliner, surrounded by off-white curtains. There was a table near me with a small floral dixie cup and saltine crackers. The curtain to my left moved, a sweet, tear stained face stared back at me. She wanted to know why I did it. Why did I have an abortion? I think this is the moment I realized what was happening to my family. I don’t remember the words I said to her, but we held hands and cried before the nurse quickly broke us up. I started in on the care team again, this time, in sheer panic. I begged them to bring me my boy. I was demanding they bring my husband to me, instead they offered to bring my phone. They tried to calm me down before telling me I would not see my boy. I forced the issue and they brought me a medical blue, rectangular box. In a box, just like the one in her hands, was my sweet boy. He had been torn from the safety of my womb and dismembered to fit into the small box. The moments after this are vivid for me. My husband was not there for me, my baby was gone, God felt unattainable and silent. Seeing red, I knocked my water and crackers over as I stood up. Lightheaded and using the curtains for balance. I gathered the hospital pad I was sitting on and made an adult diaper out of it. I pulled my pregnancy pants up over it. I demanded a few more bed liners for the road, because I was bleeding so heavy. I was helped down the stairs and led to the receptionist counter. I composed myself, so I didn’t scare anyone in the waiting room. We paid them. Let me repeat that, we actually paid them. The cost was $500 to rip my son from my body, maybe more, but I believe that was the physical price paid. There is no amount great enough to explain what we lost on that Friday morning. What we lost could only be restored by God.
We spiraled from there. It looked like the beginning of the end.
When I am faced with awful situations, I like to remind myself God has kept me from something worse. Most of the time, I have no idea what “worse” could be and other times, I’m 2 minutes late to the 5 car pile-up. It’s easy when hit with disaster to spiral out of control, to jump to the worst of feelings and more often than not, we stay there for a while. This is exactly what we did. We grieved. Neither of us had ever known this type of loss before in our lives. There were many things I had lost, but nothing could have prepared me for this. For the next month, I was sick, fevered and spent most of my days crying. The medicine kept my mind from racing, but it couldn’t stop the dreams from playing. This is when the nightmares started. A month later, we rushed to the hospital for a d&c, only to learn I was still carrying parts of our son in my womb. As if knowing he was ripped from my body wasn’t devastating enough, I had carried parts of my son with me for an entire month!
But God. He was not done with us. Gavin’s story was far from over, it was just the beginning. There is no perfect place to start, so I will just begin with the one closest to my heart.
To the day, my reoccurring nightmare takes place at the top of the stairs of the abortion clinic. My body is held by arms clothed in scrubs, one yellow and one pink, I deliver my son into the arms of a man wearing surgical clothing. He immediately turns and walks down the hallway into the light. It is silent, except for the blood curdling scream that escapes my body and I wake up every time begging for my son. When I’m asleep, it feels like an eternity. It takes me back to a place I do not want to be.
When I’m awake, I see the purpose. I see the light at the end of the corridor. God gave me a hands on experience to one of the most traumatic things a woman could endure. The mistreatment, dishonor and lack of respect for women in these clinics make me sick. Maybe it’s not this way everywhere, but I guarantee you, it’s more common than not. It is so easy to stand on the outside with your sign and yell scripture verses at these girls, begging them to not move forward with their decision, but what you don’t realize is this isn’t helping! How many women see your signs and turn around? What if the initial contact happened years prior? What if, instead of yelling, you held their hand? What if, instead of posting about your hate for abortion on social media, you found a way to actively impact the youth in your city? What if, instead of judging the single mom or the woman shamed by rape, you showed up? I do not know if there is a solution to this, but I do know there is love. The type of love that Christ exemplified while he walked as a human and the love he poured out on the cross. He gave his very life for the redemption of our sins. Who are we to judge another?
I had the privilege of laying alone in a small room, terrified speechless. I had the privilege of waiting alone, wishing my reality was not the truth and walking out of a building filled with so much shame. I was not sure how I could ever tell anyone what happened. I can empathize, because I know. Empathy is a powerful and life changing. The only difference between me and the other precious women that day, is our baby had already met the Lord. I like to think he was involved in welcoming the other babes into heaven that April morning. While we mourn, heaven rejoices for these precious babies whose feet now run on streets of gold. You see, God does not make mistakes. He allows us to make decisions and he continuously pursues us with his never ending love. I wish I knew the name of the woman next to me in the recliner, but I know God does. I pray for her often, asking the Lord to lead her to the men and women that will walk out unconditional love right before her eyes. I ask him to heal her broken heart and redeem her story for his glory! I do not know what haunts her, the shame she lives in or the way she is judged for her choices, but I do know that she immediately regretted her decision. Every moment I hear hatred breathed towards women who have had an abortion, I ache, because I am her… I know her pain.
The drive home was silent and heartbreaking. Not knowing what was next, but understanding nothing would ever be the same for us. Looking back, I realize this was exactly what we needed to draw us to the Lord.
Prior to finding out we were expecting Gavin, we were active in our church. We loved God. However, he was just a Sunday God to us. We felt good about our Sunday morning church visit, but we weren’t walking away changed. We weren’t living out God’s Word or walking the path he wanted for us. We had never realized the depth of our need for a Savior, but we would soon.Quickly we were falling apart. Unable to communicate with each other, both grieving our immense lost. We felt isolated and alone. It wasn’t long before our marriage crumbled right before our eyes.
We have the privilege of understanding a broken marriage and the honor of leading other couples through tough seasons with the Lord’s help. The strong bond between my husband and myself was not easily broken. We loved each other fiercely and through our entire separation, he pursued me. We dated, we cried, we began to heal. We also fought… hard, sometimes politely and other times, it could make a grown man run home to his Momma. Over time we learned to fight hard for what was right. Our marriage was right, our family was right and we would eventually learn that God was the only factor missing. Within the same year, we were back under the same roof and learning to live again. Shortly after moving back in together, we moved out of the country and into the city. Making us even further away from family and knowing no-one. Our son transferred schools and we jumped right into our new life in the city.
I stand in awe of the way God orchestrated every step of our life, even when we were not pursuing him. We were actively running the opposite direction for quite a while. Occasionally, we would try a new church, but we would always have a reason why we wouldn’t go back to church again. Trust me, our list was impressive. It’s ironic how judgmental a sinner (talking about myself) can be of God’s house and his people. We were doing anything to hide from God! It was during this season of hiding when I met my friend, Mildred. We laugh and joke about the times she tried to be kind to me. It would be freezing outside at the school bus stop. She would ask me to sit in her warm car and I would politely decline every time. We all know it’s not ok to get into the car with strangers, right? One day, she got out of her car and stood in the freezing cold with me. For a year, she listened as I talked, supported, comforted and eventually began to speak the truth my heart needed to hear. She never had to get out of the car, into the cold, but the step of unconditional love was the catalyst of change for me. Because she was willing to be cold for 5-10 minutes with me, I was able to be loved, to be invited to church and to see the Light of the World through the way she walked and talked. To this day, she is my friend who I can trust with the ugly details. We will cry together when our hearts are breaking and set each other in our place if we are being crazy. This isn’t a friendship of convenience, this is a God ordained set-up for his glory. Her faithfulness introduced me to a church where I would hear God’s word preached, feel his Spirit in a way I had never known, I would be healed there, my husband would find God there and it would be the beginning of our serving in God’s Kingdom.
My first visit to church would be the last time I ever spent a Sunday home because I was running from God! Goosebumps and tears… the whole service. God was in this place. I quit running and his embrace was the beginning of my healing. We spend so much time running from the only one who can heal us, adding more pain to our story than what he intended. The beautiful truth is, he is waiting for you to stop running, how far you run is your choice.
While it would seem we were right on time to the 5 car pile-up, God protected us still. We took the long way to healing. He made a way out and made sure we were placed in a neighborhood, church and environment to heal safely and come to know him personally. What the enemy meant to destroy us is actively being used for God’s glory. We are relatable to others, our faith is stronger and we are not afraid of our future!
Speaking of not being afraid, one of my greatest fears as a mother was the fear that I could not keep my children safe. I understand they fall and get hurt, their feelings get hurt and sometimes their hearts are broken, but my fear reached beyond these normal things. All the what if’s flooded my brain when I was pregnant for my first and then for Gavin. The grief and shame that filled my soul when they brought me the blue box defined me for quite some time. Never externally. I fought hard against the lies that filled my mind and I never won. I couldn’t win by myself. As a mother, my heart’s cry is to keep my children safe from my womb and for the rest of their days. Knowing I had failed Gavin left me shattered and broken into tiny pieces. When God started putting the pieces back together, I was amazed by the beauty there. I had protected Gavin. I had carried him for all his days. I had cared for my body well, showed up at all the Dr. appointments and then some, and I honor his life daily. With peace replacing the chaos in my mind, I was able to see clearly. My son’s body could not be put together here, but he is whole in heaven. While I do not love the blue box part of Gavin’s story, I know God is sovereign and one day, I will know what it means to be complete. Until then, I will praise the one who heals our bodies and redeems our broken stories!
We had the privilege of knowing the power of God’s redemptive love and healing. Losing Gavin helped us realize how precious our children’s lives are. We treasure the very air our children breathe. We understand the gift they are to us and the world they touch. They are entrusted to our care. We are teaching them to know the Lord. This weight isn’t one we carry begrudgingly, it is one we embrace and cherish, because we know the value of this life. We know the immense and unmeasurable pain loss brings. The amount of time we have to make sure they know who they are and who God has called them to be is passing quickly. We have the honor and privilege to lead them to the foot of the cross, where they can learn who God truly is. The gift of Gavin’s life paved a road straight to the foot of the cross for our family. We can’t go back, because we have come too far!
Gavin’s story isn’t finished! I continue to grow daily. I am learning from him still. God continues to shift the way I view my pain. Yes, it is painful to lose a child. Yes, it is painful to know that I will never carry another child. Yes, the enemy of my soul loves to tell me I am not enough, but the joke is on him… I know I am not enough and all of my strength comes from the Lord!
April 29th, 2012, fell on a Sunday. I debated skipping church because I couldn’t stop crying, but I went anyway. Every worship song they sang talked about God’s healing rain and provision. I walked to the front for prayer. A sweet woman prayed over me and while she prayed, I gave my boy back to the Lord. I had carried the weight of losing him for 2 years too long. As I prayed and released every fear related to letting my son go, it felt like warm water was pouring over me… but I wasn’t wet! This is the moment healing began. We wait for healing, like God will just do it, forgetting he is a gentleman. He wont force himself on us. He is waiting for a willing heart and complete surrender! When I am tempted to pick him up again, God gently reminds me, he is sovereign. I can not live in healing and brokenness at the same time. If you see me crying, it is for one of two reasons, I miss my boy or I am remembering all the ways God has healed my heart and redeemed our story!
I have learned this loss did not happen to us, it is something we carry with us. Our loss does not define us, rather it describes the goodness of God. Every time we tell his story, we can’t resist the urge to tell you about our Savior’s redemptive plan.
As a woman, I am not only designed to carry life, but to carry loss with grace and the strength the Spirit fills me with. This isn’t a death sentence, it is a license to live.
God’s voice whispers in the stillness. His voice rises above the other noise, calming my fears, drying my tears and reminding me of his unconditional love and healing. God’s promises remain true as I recall his goodness. I’m not afraid of the future! He is making a way for me to do exactly what he has promised years ago. Faithfully, I will passionately serve God, my family, my church and the people I encounter daily. God has been preparing my heart for something greater than I could imagine or dream. Every season has cultivated ground in my heart and planted seeds for the seasons to come. Every tear I have cried has watered the soil of my vulnerable heart. Every heartache and healing encounter with the Lord has prepared my heart for the seasons to come! I wait expectantly for the future, knowing I am held and not one weapon formed against me will prosper. I will not be shaken! I will stand strong and courageous on the Holy Ground of my present season, because God fights for me.