Join us for a conversation with Tricia Roos on pursuing and accepting God's will when your motherhood journey looks nothing like what you had hoped or expected it to be. After her daughter, Annabelle, was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, Tricia was advised to get an abortion. Tricia chose life and watched God perform a miracle: allowing Annabelle to live for six days and defy all medical odds.
Tricia shares Annabelle's story in her new book, When Wishes Change, which describes how God walked her through her grief and showed her how to embrace His will for her life. She is passionate about encouraging grieving moms to find purpose in their pain and use their God-given gifts for good.
In this episode, we discussed:
Choosing life despite a fatal diagnosis in pregnancy
Finding healing in embracing God's will
How to find purpose in your pain (and why)
Discovering and using your gifts for good
Grief presenting itself years later and how that can be normal
Life milestones and how they can trigger grief
Experiencing joy again (when you don't think you ever will)
What you can learn from friends who are further along in their grief
Gender disappointment with rainbow babies and complicated feelings in grief
The value of time and viewing each day as a gift
All about her book, When Wishes Change
Full transcript below.
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Tricia's book is called When Wishes Change because she learned that by pursuing God's will and embracing it, that her wishes became His wishes. How have you found that God has changed your perspective and your desires? Has it been hard to accept His will for your life? Journal below.
In this episode, Tricia and Ashley talk about how grief can surface years later at unexpected times. Has this been the case for you? If so, did something trigger it? If not, is this something you worry about in the future? In what ways has your grief changed over time?
Tricia and Ashley talk a lot about finding purpose in pain and why that's been healing in their grief journeys. Tricia mentions that it's important to use your God-given gifts and talents to bless others. Write down your strengths and passions as well as any promptings God has put on your heart then spend some time in prayer asking Him to provide clarity and direction.
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!
MEET OUR GUEST
Tricia Roos is a Dallas wife and mom who lost her daughter, Annabelle, to Trisomy 18. Against the advice of medical experts, Tricia chose life for her daughter and ended up experiencing a miracle: Annabelle lived for six days defying all medical odds.
Tricia's story captured the attention of the large high school she worked in and the media in her city. She is the author of When Wishes Change.
Connect with Tricia:
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MEET OUR HOST
Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
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Episode 19: When Wishes Change with Tricia Roos
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.
I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.
Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:24] Hi friends, and welcome back. I am looking forward to you hearing this episode today. We have a very special guest, Tricia Roos, author of When Wishes Change, a book that she wrote that shares her story of losing her daughter, Annabelle. She will share her entire story here in just a minute, but I'd like to do a brief introduction to her story.
Tricia Roos is a Dallas wife and mother who built her career coaching young athletes. Multiple state volleyball championships pale, however, next to what she gained through tragedy. Against the advice of medical experts, Tricia completed her pregnancy with a child diagnosed with a fatal chromosome condition. That season her team won, the child in her grew, and eventually, Tricia held and loved the daughter no one expected to live.
Then in six days, Tricia and her family rewrote the medical chapter on Trisomy 18, living out a story that galvanized the large high school she worked in, the media in her city, and inspires her audiences and readers today. Let's jump in and hear her remarkable story.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:35] Welcome Tricia. Thank you so much for being here.
Tricia Roos: [00:02:38] Thanks for having me.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:40] We were introduced by a fellow podcaster and I had the honor of hearing your story on her podcast that I had previously been a guest on. And I was just so humbled by your story, and I would love for you to go ahead and introduce yourself and share Annabelle’s story with us.
Tricia Roos: [00:03:01] Absolutely. So my name is Tricia Roos, and I live in Dallas, Texas, born and raised in Dallas. And just like a lot of people, I went to college and ended up meeting my husband and got married and we both started our careers.
And so we went through our 20s just really focusing on our marriage and our career, and around 2011 we decided we were ready to have children. And so I was pregnant with my first child, Cameron, super easy, healthy pregnancy overall. And so when Cameron was about three years old, he started asking us for a lady baby, and he had noticed that some of his friends were getting little babies, particularly a lot of little sisters, and he just wanted to go pick one up at the store, I guess.
And so we just told him to pray about it, because we weren't sure how to explain that to a three-year-old. But I was pregnant a few months later and everything was great for the first few months. And again, I was pretty naive to any kind of unfortunate circumstances with pregnancy or a loss or a miscarriage.
And my doctor happened to mention at the end of the visit that I could do a blood test to find out the gender. And I was so excited to plan–coloring a wall pink or blue, so I took a blood test.
Well, we ended up finding out about 10 days later that the blood test revealed that our baby was a girl, we had our lady baby, but that also she tested positive for Trisomy 18.
And I had no idea what that was, and my doctor proceeded to tell me that so many of us are familiar with Down Syndrome being Trisomy 21, and Trisomy 18, it's just typically a more severe version of Down Syndrome and usually comes with heart and brain defects.
And so we found out that our Annabelle had a two-chamber heart instead of four, and basically we were told there was no chance of survival and we were encouraged to get an abortion.
And we found all of this out so fast and everything just being this spiral out of control with emotion. And we were so puzzled why we would be told to have an abortion. I thought maybe my life was at stake. I really didn't understand.
And so what I came to realize very quickly was that the recommendation was purely because she wasn't perfect and she wasn't deemed worthy of whatever her life would look like, whether it was a stillbirth or if I would have a miscarriage or if she would have a short life, to that doctor.
And so we told him that was not our intent and that we would continue this pregnancy no matter what it looked like. And so, because of her heart condition, we were given less than a 10% chance of her being born alive. We were told that if she was born alive, that it would likely be very short-lived, maybe a few breaths or live an hour.
And so many times you're struck with tragedy and you didn't see it coming, but we were in a situation to where we knew it was coming. We just didn't know when. And as I continued that pregnancy and made that decision to continue on with her life,
I was the Director of Admissions at a really large Catholic high school with a volleyball team I was in charge of, I was the head volleyball coach. And I had already told everybody I was pregnant because I was so excited.
And so I decided to make this really public and just say, “Look, we are not choosing abortion. We believe that her life has value and that we're going to love her no matter what.” And what was really beautiful about that situation and in that community with just how they rallied around us.
And so many of us may know a teenage girl or two that you may associate with drama or selfishness. And my experience that year, in particular, that volleyball season, August to November, was that these girls came together completely selfless and playing for something bigger than themselves. And that really brought unity and really helped me out through those hard days, that I knew that I had troops rallying for me all around me.
And so we went on to win the state championship in volleyball. They dedicated the whole season to Annabelle. Our state rings were engraved with Annabelle’s Army. That's what they called themselves. And I was still pregnant into my third trimester. I wasn't even expected to get that far, but there I was still pregnant and continuing on and marching into December.
And in that month after volleyball season ended, I was able to put my full focus on her life and taking care of myself and taking care of her and really acknowledging that I could spend time with her, talking to her in my stomach. My son talked to her nonstop. He loved talking to his sister when she was in my stomach.
And when we got to the end of December, our doctor said we really needed to do a C-section and that I was really taking on a lot of amniotic fluid and needed to get her out to have a chance of her survival.
And so we scheduled a C-section on December 29th, a few days after Christmas, with an operating room full of doctors and nurses as if I was some kind of miracle spectacle because they didn't expect me to be there.
And when they got her out, she was not breathing and I was getting prepped that she was not alive. And the minutes felt like hours, and after about three or four minutes, we heard this little lion cub cry. And as soon as we heard that, we knew she was alive.
And they got her over to my chest for kangaroo care, as they call it. And her heart rate was regular and she turned pink. And she was amazing! She was gorgeous.
And from then on, she just kept defying everything that experts had said, that she couldn't make it to birth, that she couldn't live more than an hour because of her heart and her lung issues. But she ended up living six days.
And for me, I feel like that was such an honor and a blessing to get her as long as we did. I know that's not everybody's story, but I know that was God's plan and will for her life, knowing that she was born to defy odds and to open some doctors’ eyes about maybe the expectations of a baby with special needs like her in the same situation. I just felt like that was really God’s calling.
And so I felt really called by God to write a book. I started writing and writing. And when I got to the name, it actually came to me at a conversation with my editor that we wanted to call it When Wishes Change, because I believe that we all have these huge dreams and wishes that we put on our own hearts. And that's not always God's plan. That's not His wish or His will for us.
And so by allowing my wishes to change and embracing the fact that I was not going to have a healthy, normal pregnancy with her, I found more beauty and hope and love than I could have ever imagined.
And no one wishes to have this happen to you. I didn't grow up as a little girl like, “I hope I have a pregnancy with a baby that’s going to die.” But now that I've been through this situation and I've watched my wishes change to align with God's will, I feel like I have this calling to share that, because I do know so many people when they're in the heat of the moment and they're dealing with grief, it just feels like there's no tomorrow and it's so painful and you don't understand God's purpose and will in it.
But I do feel that as you allow wishes to change and you align your wishes with God's will, then you start to see a bigger picture.
Ashley Opliger: [00:10:59] Absolutely. I think when we can trust in God's sovereignty and understand that life is such a gift, it’s so precious and so sacred, and each day is a gift.
And you chose life for Annabelle. When you were being advised to get an abortion and end her life, you chose for God to determine the day and the hour to take her home, just like God is going to take all of us home and He has determined that day and hour.
And so you were able to view each day as a gift with her and then such a miracle and blessing that you were able to spend time with her, not only in your womb, singing to her and reading to her, but also getting to hold her and love on her for those six beautiful days. And I just love that you had such trust and also you allowed God to give you that perspective that life is a gift, and that we should cherish each day.
And so what would you say? Because I know that had to be so hard processing in your pregnancy a life-limiting diagnosis; even when you were going to pray for the best and hope for a miracle, there still had to be so many days filled with fear and anxiety and wondering what this was going to look like or how it was going to play out.
I did not have for Bridget a life-limiting diagnosis, but we had complications in my pregnancy and so many what-ifs and questions about how things would go.
And you and I actually were talking about the fact that we were pregnant with Annabelle and Bridget at the same time in 2014. Bridget was born in October and then Annabelle was born in December. And so that's really special that our stories connect in that way.
But would you share a little bit more about what that looked like in your pregnancy, walking through the fears, the grief, and the joy, and all of those emotions together?
Tricia Roos: [00:12:48] You know, I think the biggest thing I learned, and I didn't realize this until I was writing about the situation, was just because I prayed not to be anxious did not mean that it just disappeared. My prayers, my petition, everything had to be just constant pursual of God’s will.
And I found that I did have those bad days where I was really angry and mad. And I remember being on a run and I was just crying: “Why me? “Why did this happen to me? How could You have done this to me?”
And so in the book, I'm very open about the raw emotion, because sometimes we feel like, “Oh, that person is such a person of faith, they just trust and they go on with their life and it's so easy for them.” But it's not always easy, especially when you don't understand the outcome and when you don't understand the why.
And so I think that giving yourself freedom to be angry and to be upset and to be sad. It doesn't mean that you're turning on God. It just means that you don't understand.
However, you can't yell at God and then forget it. Right? You keep asking why and you keep pursuing answers. When the Bible says, “Just keep knocking, keep praying and you'll get answers,” I found that to be true. I found that the more I prayed and prayed and asked, I did get answers. And they weren't always the answers I expected or the ones that I wanted.
But specifically for me in my prayer time and my months in pregnancy with her, I had this consistent message that I was receiving, that, “She will be an abundant blessing to others, and that you will be abundantly blessed through her life.”
And I had no idea what that meant. I was like, “How could it be a blessing, because she’s supposed to die and I don't get it.” But that message was really clear to me actually, in the dream, it was very specific to me.
But now that it's been seven years later, I completely understand what a blessing her life was and the impact it's had on the medical community and the ones that were surrounding us, hospitals, doctors, nurses, other moms that I've been able to reach out to through Facebook groups and other ways of connecting with other grieving moms, podcasts, writing the book.
I feel like when God was saying to me, “She will be an abundant blessing,” it meant, “her life will have tremendous impact and that is why she will be born and why she will die young.”
And although that was extremely painful as a mother to go through that experience, as long as I felt like there was a grander purpose that God had for this whole situation, it's a weird to say, but it hurt less. I feel better because I know that her life has affected so many people.
And I was reflecting the other day and thinking about the fact that seven years ago, these girls I was coaching were 15 to 18 years old, and now the oldest girls are 25. And so that means that they're getting married.
No one's had a child yet; a few have gotten married. But in the next 10 years, they'll be getting married. They'll be starting families. And I guarantee somewhere in there, someone will experience miscarriage or loss or a friend will experience miscarriage or loss.
And I just think, “Man, I really pray that Annabelle's life, when they were just teenagers experiencing this whole situation with me, what if that helps them 15 years from now when they're going through a similar situation?” And so that continues to give me hope that there is a ripple effect of her life through others.
Ashley Opliger: [00:16:41] Absolutely. I actually had a conversation with a group of grieving parents last night about purpose in pain. And so many bereaved parents, they'll lose their child and not know what the purpose is or not feel like God is showing them that purpose.
But one thing that I try to say is that there's no amount of striving that I could do, no amount of podcasts or writing a book or the reach of our nonprofit’s impact will ever tip the scales of redeeming Bridget's life. I would have, of course, a thousand times over would have chosen for her to be born alive and to have her in our family on earth.
But of course, that purpose helps when you're walking through the rest of your life on earth until you get to see her again in Heaven. And so what I was sharing was finding purpose in my pain has been more about my response of gratitude to the fact that I will get to see Bridget forever and ever in Heaven.
And that gift was because Jesus died on a cross for me, and He gave me this salvation. And so out of my gratitude that I don't have to grieve without hope that she's not lost, we will get to see our babies again in Heaven, then everything that I've done is not out of striving to try to redeem my pain, but out of thankfulness and out of wanting to run my race well, and also wanting to honor her life in the plan and purpose that God had for her life on earth.
And so I don't know if that makes sense, but I think sometimes when we talk about purpose from pain, people will wonder, “Well, why can't we just be in pain? Why does there have to be purpose?” Or, “Do we have to do some grand gesture in order to validate our grief or baby's life?”
And so I always try to be careful because I don't want anyone to look at you or me and think that oh, we're better mothers because we were able to do these things, but at the same time to share this inspiration that has given both of us so much healing in our journey.
So would you speak to that, about what finding purpose look like not only in Annabelle's story but also in your story in following Christ?
Tricia Roos: [00:19:03] Yeah, that makes total sense to me. And one thing to think about there, everybody was given different gifts. And my whole life, I was a good writer and I love writing.
And in my professional life, prior to doing some new things, I was a public speaker. I spoke in front of large groups all the time because I was the Director of Admissions and we had these huge events and open houses. And I've known my whole life that those were two of my gifts and I used them, but in a work capacity.
And so I think that when you can assess some of those gifts that God has given you, somebody else that might be volunteering and giving time, somebody else that might be helping organize a charity event or being a resource for others just to talk to, or starting a group, there's so many different ways that you can use your gifts to help others.
And so personally for me, I found that calling through writing and I found that calling through speaking because I've known my whole life those were two of my gifts. I just wasn't using them in this way. And it's funny you say that because so many people are like, “Oh man, you've done so much more than I have with this situation.”
Like, “No, I’m using the gifts that I have.” And then with that person, I'm like, “But you volunteer for this organization.” Or, “You've given your time and treasure to help others.” Or, “I know you talked to a mom that called you.” So we just have to all see that every gift and everything that we do is valuable.
And we all know we don't have time in the day to help every single person in the world and be in 10 places at once. And then you and I both have other children that we have to raise, and we have a very strong responsibility as mothers to raise those children up right and to teach them about Jesus.
Because I find myself doing the same thing. I find myself saying, “Okay, fine. I wrote a book or I speak. However, I'm not getting enough volunteer hours, or I'm not helping charity enough that support Trisomy Foundation.”
But I have to take deep breaths and be like, “But I'm also raising a family and I'm trying to work and I have to appreciate the impact that I'm making and value it for what it is.” And so I really relate to how you phrase that. You phrased that really well.
Ashley Opliger: [00:21:25] Well, I love what you said about using your gifts and your strengths because ultimately that's what it's all about as followers of Christ, that we are giving ourselves to His glory to build His Kingdom. And God has made us each uniquely and given us different strengths and different capabilities and different preferences and passions.
And so each person that's listening, everybody has a different role. And for me, people always come into Bridget’s Cradles headquarters and they look around at everything and they'll see all the knitted and the crocheted cradles, and they'll say, “Do you knit?”
And I'll be like, “No.”
“Do you crochet?”
“Do you sew?"
“No, I can't do any of these things, but I can organize the cradles and I can organize and execute plans. And leadership is a strength of mine and communicating and all of these things.” And so that's where God has given me those strengths to be able to lead in this capacity.
But Bridget’s Cradles wouldn't exist if it weren't for all of the knitters and the crocheters and all the people who sew and all the people who pack the boxes and do all of the different aspects of the organization that we need to operate.
And there's so many different body parts of the body of Christ. It takes each person to give their time, their talents and their treasure, giving financially, whether it's to a pregnancy crisis center or a pregnancy loss support organization.
I think you said it perfectly when you said each of us has a passion and a gift, and what matters most is that we're being obedient to God in what He's asking us to do.
And it doesn't have to be some grand act or something, but for you, God has asked you to write the book that you wrote. And for me, God has asked me to start Bridget’s Cradles and to host this podcast.
And it's going to look very different and it doesn't have to be a big thing. It’s just about following God, and it's all of these small acts of obedience. And God will guide you as you go.
You know, the organization that I'm a part of right now, it didn't start the way it is right now. It started in Bridget's empty nursery with barely enough cradles to make one hospital order. And it grew and grew from there, and that was all from acts of obedience.
And so I just encourage anyone who's listening, that’s wondering, “What is my purpose? What should I be doing,” just spend time in prayer with God and see. What is He putting on your heart?
Ashley Opliger: [00:23:50] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about some other hope-filled resources our ministry provides to grieving families.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find many resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, blog articles, featured stories, recommended books, and other support organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. We also have a page with ideas on how to care for a friend or family member who has experienced pregnancy loss.
In addition, every month I lead free Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find friendship and support. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name.
Lastly, our Pinterest page has beautiful graphics of quotes & Scripture from this episode, along with many other resources that you can pin and save. We would also love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. We’d love for you to follow along and spread the word about the Cradled in Hope Podcast. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:24:12] I'm going to transition now to talk more about your grieving after Annabelle passed away, the initial waves of grief that hit after spending those six days with her.
What did grieving look like for you immediately in those weeks and months? And how did you rely on your faith to get you through the deep grief?
Tricia Roos: [00:25:48] I think like anyone else, even though we knew that she would pass away eventually, she wasn't going to live a normal, long life, it's still such a shock when it happened.
And for us, it was at home. It was the middle of the night and there was just something different about her breathing. And you could tell she was giving up, it was the end. And I think that for days it was literally only just tears and sadness and sleeping. I hadn't slept. I stayed awake for six days nonstop for her whole life.
I really doubt that I slept more than just dozing in and out, because I didn't want to miss anything. And of course everybody's warning was that she was, “She's about to die. She's about to die. She's not going to make it another day.” And then she kept making it another day. And so I was just physically exhausted.
And then of course I had also just had a C-section and I had gained over 80 pounds and half of that was in the last month because of the fact that she couldn't swallow amniotic fluid. And there was just a lot of pain and a lot of recovery.
And because I really didn't move from my bed when she was alive, because she lived on my chest, it was really physically painful. And that doesn't help because you're sad and you're grieving, but then you can't even sit up and you can't walk around because I postponed the recovery process for myself.
And so I think it took me a couple weeks to get out of the fog. I think I just lived in a constant fog. And I don't think I ever doubted my state, but I think that my body was in recovery survival mode and needed to come back.
And the Celebration of Life service, I think it happened about eight days after she passed away, I remember it was a really hard morning. I was super anxious and nervous just about the whole event. And the school had let out early so that all the kids, over a thousand kids in my school, could come to the funeral, plus faculty, staff and everybody that we knew.
But I remember though, I mentioned in a dream about having the message of being abundantly blessed, and in the dream I was walking down the aisle of my church. And I specifically remember in the dream people everywhere, and being told, “You will be abundantly blessed, and Annabelle will be a blessing.” And the light was coming in the chapel like a certain way.
And I remember when the service started, I'm in the front row and I looked back. And that same vision from my dream, the same lighting, it was at three o'clock, was coming through the windows and the crowd. And I was starting to get it. “I think there's something to this.”
And then a day later, this little girl that was one of my volleyball managers texted and she said, “Coach Roos. I haven't been to church in a really long time. I'd given up on my faith, not a believer. And when I went to the service yesterday,” obviously we were pointing everything back to Jesus and she said, “It has given me faith again.”
And I almost remember that text, I was like, “Oh my gosh, the purpose! Being abundantly blessed!” It’s starting to click.
But then being on maternity leave when you don't have a baby is really hard because you're just sitting alone at home and Jonas, my husband, had to go back to work. My son's at daycare. And so I actually went back to work immediately.
And I don't know if I would advise that for everybody, but for me, I needed community. I needed people. I needed people that really knew me and I needed a distraction. I couldn't just sit at home all the time.
There was a day I went to the mall just to walk, because it was cold. And all these moms have their little baby strollers because that's what a lot of women do on maternity. And I didn't. And I was like, “Can't do it. I’ve got to go back to work.”
Now I will say that felt really good at the time and I was really glad to get back to routine. But I think that I put off my grief for years because of that. I was pregnant again, six months later. In the middle of that, I had to have an emergency gallbladder surgery.
Then you go another year of pregnancy, a year of breastfeeding, and toddler and newborn stage. And it wasn't until my youngest was a little bit older that it just hit me so hard, the grief. And it was about four or five years after, so this was about two years ago, and I was shocked that this was happening.
I didn't understand. Like, “Why now? Why am I all of a sudden really sad and depressed?” And so that was actually the point when I went to a therapist. because I just didn't know how to handle the emotion and I couldn't understand it.
But if you think about it, I worked at a high school and there's turnover every four years. So all that comfort of all the people that really knew me and who I was and knew my story, every kid had graduated. And a lot of new people had joined the school that were working there that didn't know me before Annabelle.
And I realized how hard it was to find my identity. Like, “You don't even know me pre-Annabelle.” Or “You don't know my story about Annabelle. How can we be friends?”
And so I learned a whole lot about how grief can present itself years after. And I think that's really important to share because I felt weird about it. I felt bad about it. I was almost mad at myself. Like, “Snap out of it. What are you doing? This happened so long ago.”
But I think that once I specifically went to a Christian grief therapist, that really helped me understand a lot more than what I could do for myself.
And additionally, my husband had a really bad episode of grief as well, shortly after I did, and it was really crazy. And it was the same thing. He was the protector and he was the one that was taking care of everybody all along instead of grieving. And again, when everybody's settled and we don't have a newborn anymore, and life is quote unquote “normal,” it just hit him really hard.
And so I do think for women, you have to understand that your spouse is, he's not going to grieve the same way as you. My husband just didn't cry. And I was a little offended by that sometimes, but he was in protector mode and he just dealt with it differently.
And so if grief hasn't struck you yet, it probably will. Or if it does five years or 10 years later, that's okay too. I don't think that it has a timeline that's the same for everybody. And I don't regret jumping back into the work and trying to create normalcy again, because I needed that at the time. But I learned a lot from that experience.
Ashley Opliger: [00:32:47] I think grief is so unique too, because I handled it kind of opposite as you in the beginning.
In fact, when I think back on that season, I was actually at home grieving when you were walking through everything with Annabelle, because my employer, because she was born October 22nd, they allowed me to take the rest of the year off through the holidays.
And so I actually started back that January and I had the whole rest of 2014 and all of the holidays to go through grieving. My husband was back at work, so I basically sat at home by myself and cried every day and journaled and was processing life and this new normal.
And we didn't have any living children at the time, so we were parents now, but we had an empty house and empty arms and so trying to navigate this identity as a mom, without a baby present. And that was really hard.
And I do feel like I grieved really raw in those initial months. And I do think that helped me with healing. But I will say that, just like you, I had a moment years later, I thought I had done so much healing work over years of not only Christian grief counseling, but leading support groups myself, running a ministry in community with other grieving moms.
But it was in 2020 with the pandemic, and we had just moved to our new home. I think there was some grief there too, of leaving our old house where I was pregnant with Bridget and I had spent my time on bed rest with her and where we had found out that she was a girl and all of these memories with Bridget, we were leaving that house behind. And that was a hard grief moment for me.
But then we also, right when we moved into our new house, we found out that we were expecting our third child, our second son. We have a four-year-old little boy, almost five, and we absolutely love him and love having a little boy. But I think my heart has still been grieving Bridget and raising a daughter and hoping to one day raise a daughter.
And so when we found out our third child was a boy, as excited as I was to welcome this new little life and a new little boy and have a little brother for our older son, I went into fresh grief all over again and had to go back to counseling.
And I remember telling my counselor, “I feel so guilty for feeling these feelings because I value life and I am so excited for this little boy. And I know I'm going to love him with everything I am.”
And that has proven to be true. And now that I've met him, I wouldn't want him to be a girl and I wouldn't want him to be anyone else but who God made him to be. But at the same time, what it did was it opened up this huge wound.
I have all of Bridget's outfits in our storage room and I can't open those up and I don't have a daughter on earth right now and may not ever have a daughter on earth. And so I had to process my grief again.
And one of the things that my counselor said to me was, “Ashley, you need to give yourself grace that you have healed and God has worked in your life over the course of these past years. Just because you're grieving again, doesn't mean that He hasn't done a work. But there are going to be milestones and seasons in your life where the grief is going to come back heavy. And God's going to walk you through it.
And big milestones, like leaving the house that you were pregnant with her, and welcoming a new child into your home, and going through pregnancy again, these are big moments that would cause you to grieve your daughter and her role in your family.”
And she said something to me that was so profound. She said, “It's okay to hold both. It's okay to hold the excitement and the love and the joy for this little boy and to hold the grief that you have for your daughter and not getting to raise a daughter on earth. It doesn't have to be a but. It can be an and.”
And that gave me so much freedom to accept that it was okay to feel that way, because I felt so guilty for grieving the way that I was. And it was just a really hard time.
And honestly, it's hard for me to share that because you hear terms like gender disappointment and things like that, and I don't think it was that in the truest sense. I think it was just opening this wound up for me in grieving, but it was definitely something I had to walk through with God.
And in the end. I think it's allowed me to draw closer to Him and to trust Him that no matter what my family looks like on this earth, that He has a plan and a purpose for our family. He has chosen each child for Matt and I to have, and ultimately I will get to be with Bridget and have a daughter for eternity. I do have a daughter for eternity.
And it goes back to your title, When Wishes Change. I love having two little boys on earth. And that wouldn't have been my plan growing up, thinking about my ideal family, but now my plans and wishes have changed and I absolutely love being a boy mom!
So would you lead us into that discussion of When Wishes Change? What does that title mean to you? And talk about when you started writing it and who you wrote it for.
Tricia Roos: [00:38:17] I think at first when I started writing, I saw this idea of a memoir and sharing our specific story of Annabelle with others, and that whole jour