Some people come into your life for a little while and leave having changed it forever. Some people come and go without leaving much of a mark. Some people come and go, and reappear in the most unlikely places. You never know what kind of effect a person will have on your life.
Such is the case with Amy. My freshman year I lived in a ward of Amys. Literally I think we had 8 or more Amys in the ward. One of these Amys lived right next door to me. While we were always friendly with one another, I’d never say that we were fast friends. The year went by without us really getting to know each other too well.
A year or so later the Facebook craze hits BYU and we become Facebook friends and while it was nice to be able to stay in contact that way, our friendship remains at about that level.
Another couple years pass and I meet this guy, Eric Hansen. Well the story there is no secret, we met, started dating, fell in love, got engaged (about that quickly too). So, being the technological nerds that we are, one of the first places that news is announced – Facebook. One of the first people to comment on our engagement, was Amy. Why? Not only was she my neighbor for our entire freshman year, but she also happens to be Eric’s cousin. Who knew?
So, another couple years pass and Eric and I are sitting at a Hansen family reunion next to Amy and her husband Zach. Just as we’re sharing the news with them that I am pregnant, they tell us that she’s also pregnant! Furthermore, in an exciting coincidence Amy is due near her birthday and I am due near Eric’s. We are more excited still when a few weeks later we find out that she is having a girl and I’m having a boy. It feels like it’s meant to be the second generation of Amy and Eric as cousins.
So the weeks go by and we share pregnancy tips with each other over Facebook and through emails. Slowly we get close to our due dates. I go to Amy’s baby shower and we are so excited about the possibility of our kids being close friends. We commiserate about the third trimester woes and soak up all the advice that veteran moms are giving. It’s so close and our excitement is definitely high. We’re both to the point where we know that if our babies were born that, while a little premature, they would survive. The reality of becoming a mom is really starting to come home for me.
Then, not one week later, I get a phone call from Eric while I’m at work. I’d been watching for him online for hours wanting to share some link with him, so I’m really excited to finally be getting in contact with him. At the same time I’m a little confused because Eric almost never calls me at work. So I answer excitedly, not realizing what his phone call would mean. He tells me that Zach and Amy’s baby had been born that morning, which totally excites me for a moment. Until he gets to the part that warranted a personal phone call in the middle of the workday – their baby was born still. Honestly, the news doesn’t hit me right then. I know I should feel really sad about it, but it just hasn’t hit me yet. I acknowledge what he said and ask if there was anything we can do for them. He says that the only thing for us to do is pray for them and we spend a brief moment thinking about their grief. I guess it was too much for me to truly process in that short period of time because the next thing I tell him is to get online so I can send him this link that I’ve been waiting to show him. I still regret that flippant move. I don’t know what else to do though and I don’t want to focus on the somber topic at hand just yet.
For some reason grief takes a long time to hit me. When my family moved from Fairport, New York to Thousand Oaks, California I didn’t shed a single tear over that. Madness! I *loved* New York. It was my home. I had lived there my entire life and the last thing I wanted to do was to leave. Especially for California! I’d never pictured myself as a California girl and I never wanted to. But not a single tear. Until about 6 months after we’d already been in California. I was sitting down organizing our piano music one night and I just broke down. Why it hit me then I’ll never know. Why not when I was telling my dearest friends goodbye? Why not as we were driving across the country? Why not after my first day at a new school? Nope, one random night while sorting piano music.
Well, my grief for Zach and Amy didn’t take that long to hit me, but it did at least wait until the end of my work day. I kept myself busy until the moment I left. As I started to drive home I turn on one of my podcasts. But I can’t focus on it. Finally I turn it off and let all of my thoughts hit me. It all hit in a big wave. By the time I got to the end of Salt Lake and heading up to the point of the mountain, I am sobbing. I just can’t believe that this is happening. Yeah, I knew that sometimes babies were born still but the chances of that actually happening, and to someone that I really knew seemed so remote I just hadn’t thought of it. Well, I mean I had, but I hadn’t fully considered that it could happen to Amy. I’d just been at her baby shower a few days ago! She is supposed to be having her little girl that’s going to be friends with my little boy.
My heart aches for Amy. I can’t truly imagine the grief that she was going through at that time or that she’s gone through since but it wasn’t too hard to put myself in her shoes. I am only three weeks behind her. The awful thought strikes me that the same thing could just as easily happen to me in the weeks to come.
My tears were almost getting to a point where they would affect my driving so I need to find a way to calm myself down. I really want to talk to my mom and just cry to her over the phone for a little while, but I can’t get in touch with her. Luckily, about the time I reach American Fork I get on the phone with my brother Cody. Since I don’t feel like crying to him I am able to pull myself together and joke with him and talk with him the rest of the way home. While that may seem callous, it was probably for the best since it helped me get into a driving frame of mind and get home without crashing.
Over the next few days as Zach and Amy post pictures of their beautiful Alexis it hits me over and over again, the reality that their precious, perfect, beautiful baby girl was dead. That’s not what was supposed to happen! They were supposed to be able to bring her home and post pictures of all the cute things she did, and we were going to go visit them and have fun together with our babies! But that wasn’t meant to be. After awhile I have to cut myself off from looking at all the pictures and reading all the blog posts because it just hits too close to home. I start to get slightly hysterical at the thought that the same thing could happen to me and my Samuel. I know that thinking that way wasn’t healthy or helpful to anyone so for a little while I cut myself off.
I missed the memorial service they had for Alexis. I really wanted to be there but the day of the service I’d been up late working on a project that I was still working on and really needed to get completed. Plus it was a ways away and Eric wasn’t going to be able to come with me because he had class. I think though what really kept me was that I was worried about being a distraction. I was worried that at 35 weeks pregnant I was going to remind Zach and Amy that I was soon going to have – and likely get to keep – what they were there to bury. I felt guilty that it was them burying their baby and not me. Guilty for praying that I wouldn’t have to go through what they were going through. I knew I couldn’t change it, and I definitely don’t think they or anyone else would have wanted me to be praying otherwise… I just didn’t feel entirely like I ought to be there. So while I had other real and valid excuses that kept me away that day, I think deep down I just felt like I oughtn’t be there.
The next several weeks went by in a flurry of activity and excitement as we got ready for Samuel to come. But in the middle of it all, Zach, Amy and Alexis were always on my mind. We prayed for them every single night. I talked about their tragedy with anyone who would listen. I was so impressed by their openness in sharing their experience and how they used it as a way to share their testimony of eternal families.
Then Samuel was born and my life has been totally centered on him ever since. But I still think of Alexis all the time. As I watch my Samuel growing up, I think of the 2nd cousin that was supposed to be here with him. Whenever I get discouraged because motherhood is hard, I try to remember that Amy would give anything to be sitting in my shoes having those trials rather than the ones she has to bear. Recently as I’ve been thinking it’s time for Sam to learn to sleep in his own bed rather than in ours, I also want to cuddle him a little longer for Amy and Alexis’ sake. Alexis has become a very real part of every parenting decision that I make, and I think I’m a better mother because of her.
A year has come and gone since the day I got that phone call. Alexis may not have had her chance at this life, but her spirit lives on. Because of her my testimony has been strengthened in the reality of eternal families. I have seen the power of prayers given in someone’s behalf. I understand better the miracle that these precious babies are.
So, happy birthday Alexis. Your time here was short, but the world is a better place because you were in it. Thank you.