Episode 34 - Redemption in Our Marriage and Family after Losing our Daughter with Steve & Heather
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Join us for a conversation with Steve and Heather Colvin about how the Lord brought healing and redemption to their family after losing their daughter, AnnaJoy.
Through a testimony of radical transformation in their marriage after AnnaJoy passed away, Steve and Heather founded a nonprofit ministry called AJ's Place: A Foundation of Hope. They help families afford memorial stones for their babies who have gone to Heaven too soon.
In this episode, we discussed:
How the Lord wants you in complete freedom in your healing
The lies we believe when we are grieving
Satan and how he exploits our trauma and loss against us
How can God be good if He doesn't seem to be good to me?
Looking for God's promises and miracles in the midst of the pain
Feelings of bitterness and resentment around other babies
How to focus on the season you're in and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus
Different ways to handle being invited to a baby shower
Humility and repentance in marriage
Putting your spouse's needs first and asking what they need in their grief
Healing and redemption through foster care and adoption
Why they call AnnaJoy's grave her "place" and how their ministry started
The importance of memorial stones and how AJ's Place can help you if cost is prohibiting you from getting one for your baby in Heaven
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!)
Steve and Heather talk about how they believe that the Lord wanted complete freedom and healing after losing AnnaJoy. But it was a painful process of reliving trauma and exposing lies they were believing. What obstacles stand in the way of you finding complete freedom in your healing? What aspects of your trauma keep you stuck? List some ways you can keep your gaze fixed on Jesus.
In this episode, Steve and Heather vulnerably share that they were having marriage difficulties for the first few years trying to grieve their daughter. But it took a moment of humility and repentance to bring transformation in their marriage. What did you learn from this? What would repentance and grace look like in your marriage?
We talk about baby showers and pregnancy announcements in this episode and how it can be triggering in your grief. Yet, Ashley shares that God didn't want her to have bitterness in her heart when others received the gift of life. What is the state of your heart, and how can you release your pain and resentment to God? Journal your feelings in a notebook.
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!
MEET OUR GUEST
Steve and Heather Colvin have been married for 25 years and live in Mount Vernon, Washington. They have ten children, three living with them currently, four who were foster kids, and one daughter in Heaven, AnnaJoy who was born at 27 weeks in 2014.
Steve and Heather founded the ministry, AJ's Place: A Foundation of Hope, in memory of AnnaJoy which helps grieving families afford memorial stones for their babies in Heaven.
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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 1,300 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 34: Redemption in our Marriage and Family after Losing our Daughter with Steve & Heather Colvin
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks.
Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land.
Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven.
Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:51] Hi friends, and welcome back to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. You may have noticed that we didn't release an episode this past month on the 15th like we normally do. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the episode you're about to listen to ready to release in the normal two-week turnaround time, and therefore, it's being released today.
The truth is that right now, I am having a hard time keeping up with everything on my plate due to some life circumstances that have been all-consuming the past few months.
I have briefly mentioned our son's medical issues in the past, but I would like to share more of what our family has been going through so you can understand why we are having to make the decision to make our podcast a once-monthly podcast for the rest of this year.
Before I do, I want to offer a trigger warning here that I am about to briefly talk about my living son for a few minutes before we start the episode and our conversation about pregnancy loss and grief.
Our two-year-old son, Brenner, was diagnosed with a rare GI immune disorder called FPIES, which stands for Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, and he was diagnosed at nine months old after having an extreme reaction to eating egg.
He went blue and limp and profusely vomited and had diarrhea until it was all out of his system. It was so scary, but after getting rehydrated and removing egg from his diet, he did improve after that reaction. But he continued to have vomiting several times a month that we couldn't really pinpoint the cause as well as other GI issues.
Right now, he is currently dairy, egg, peanut, chicken, turkey, and soy, corn, and pea protein-free, which makes his diet incredibly restrictive. And to add to that, he has sensory issues to different textures of food. So due to his diet and feeding issues, he has struggled to gain weight and consume enough calories.
He went from being 50th percentile in weight as a baby when he was born and at three months old to only 5% at one-year-old, and then he completely fell off the growth chart over the last couple of months.
This has been incredibly stressful and worrisome for my husband and I. We have, for the past year, done everything we could do to help him eat and grow. He is seen twice weekly for feeding therapy with a Speech Pathologist, one time in our home each week and then once in an outpatient setting.
He's also followed by multiple GI doctors, both here in Wichita and Children's Mercy in Kansas City. He has a pediatric allergist, an endocrinologist, a geneticist, many other doctors that we've seen, trying to figure out what we can do to help him grow.
He's had almost every GI procedure you can imagine, a scope, gastric emptying test, upper GI radiology test, abdominal ultrasound, and so many pricks to get lab work done, stool and urine tests, et cetera. There have just been so many things we've been trying to do to figure out what all is going on with his GI system.
Recently we have him on a special hypoallergenic formula that breaks the food proteins down into amino acids so that his sensitive gut can tolerate it. And then he is also on certain vitamin and iron supplements to help with the deficiencies from his restrictive diet.
We are working with a dietitian and counting all of his calories to hit daily calorie goals and weekly weight gain goals, and we're also tracking all of his food intake to see if we can identify further foods that are bothering his GI system.
So needless to say, this diagnosis has been very challenging for Brenner and myself and our family, but the prognosis is actually very promising because most kids do outgrow FPIES by age five, and so we are praying with all our might that this will be the case for Brenner. I'm praying that the Lord will heal him from this and let him one day be able to eat all of the foods and not have to struggle with this condition for the rest of his life.
So all that to be said, and I know I shared a lot of details, and I struggled with how much to share on this episode in giving you an update and how many details to share, but I really wanted to be forthcoming with what's going on in my life and why in this season I am unable to produce twice monthly episodes.
So it really breaks my heart because I love making these episodes and sharing the hope of Christ with you. But right now, Brenner needs me, and this is the season God has me in. I don't fully understand, but this is what God has for me as part of my story and part of Brenner's story. And I know that one day He's going to use it for good and use it for my testimony and for his testimony.
And so I also wanted you to know that I am still completely committed to my role as Executive Director of Bridget’s Cradles, and I am still serving in the same capacity there, but I just have reduced time to commit to the podcast because the podcast has always been an extra commitment of time that I reserve to this particular part of the ministry.
But Lord willing, when I am able and things are more stable with Brenner, I will be able to do more episodes in the year. So for now, I'm going to just commit to once a month and see if I can do that. And I really thank you so much for your understanding, and I would appreciate your prayers for Brenner and our family when you think of us.
I also want to say that though this trial has been incredibly difficult, it has been another opportunity for me to lean on the faithfulness of God. He has carried me through so many other struggles and so much grief in the past, and He will carry me through this.
So though there have been many days and nights in the past few months that have felt very dark and hopeless, so many worries have swirled through my head, and so many times I've wondered if this will get better, but I have not once doubted God's goodness, and I know He is here with me, still waiting on this miracle, and we're waiting on healing for Brenner, but I want to publicly say that I believe He is good right here, right now, in the middle of this storm.
So friend, please let me tell you that I'm here with you in the trenches of grief, pain, sadness, loss, and I know He is with you too. Don't ever forget that. Don't ever lose hope. Know that I am continuing to pray for you, and I'm standing on God's faithfulness and believing that He will carry you through.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to the founders of AJ's Place, Steve and Heather Colvin. Steve and Heather have been married for 25 years and live in Mount Vernon, Washington. They have 10 children, three living with them currently, four who were foster kids, and one daughter in Heaven. AnnaJoy, who was born at 27 weeks in 2014.
Steve and Heather founded the nonprofit ministry, AJ's Place in memory of AnnaJoy. I am so excited for you to learn more about their ministry and their beautiful story of redemption in their marriage and in their family. Let's welcome Steve and Heather to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:36] Welcome, Steve and Heather, to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We're so grateful that you're here, and we're excited for everyone to hear your story and also your beautiful ministry, AJ's Place. So would you introduce yourselves?
Heather Colvin: [00:07:48] Hi. Thank you for having us. We're Steve and Heather. We live about an hour north of Seattle, and I am a former teacher, now a homeschool mom. And I'll let Steve introduce himself.
Steve Colvin: [00:08:01] Hi, thanks again for having us, and I drive a wheelchair van part-time, and then I work with our nonprofit, AJ's Place, part-time.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:08] Amazing. And we're going to get into your story of how AJ's Place came to be, but it started with your beautiful little girl, AnnaJoy, who was born at 27 weeks in 2014. So would you share her story with us now?
Steve Colvin: [00:08:25] Yeah. So we were believing for another baby. We had our oldest daughter in 2004, and in about 2006, we started trying for another child. And so we'd been believing for AnnaJoy for about eight years.
And once we found out that we were pregnant, we were super excited, and we shared the news with our oldest, and of course, she was super excited. She was born to have siblings, and it was something that she couldn't wait for; she was really looking forward to it.
So we found out in January, and by about April or so, we noticed there were some things that were not quite right with Heather, and then in May, she ended up going into the hospital to get diagnosed and to see what was exactly going on.
Heather Colvin: [00:09:12] They diagnosed me with something called HELLP syndrome, which I had never heard of, but it's a liver disorder with pregnancy, and at first, I was just going to be on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy.
Then once they diagnosed me with HELLP syndrome, it was a clotting disorder, and because I needed to be a C-section, they said, “We have to deliver her today,” so it was kind of a whirlwind.
We also were fostering at the time, so we had our foster son, and dealing with the state and all of those types of things all at the same time. And I was at total peace. I was believing, “This is our miracle baby. We've been believing for her for eight years. The Lord answered our prayers. She is going to be a testimony.”
I was at complete peace, and I actually didn't even realize how sick I was. I ended up having to have two blood transfusions after delivery. And they actually also, backing up, they had to knock me out. I thought Steve was going to get to be in the operating room with me, and he wasn't because they couldn't get lines in. The epidural wasn't working, everything was crashing, and it was really difficult. So then I was completely knocked out, and then I'll let Steve take over what was happening.
Steve Colvin: [00:10:24] She was born on June 9th, 2014, and I was in the hospital in the waiting room. We had some friends and family with us there because I wasn't able to be in the operating room, and they, [crying softly] sorry, I didn't recognize the magnitude of what was going on.
And I mean, we were excited. We knew she was early. We knew that there was complications with Heather, but we just didn't fully process everything, I suppose. And anyway, I was back in the waiting room, and then the code blue alarms went off, and I instantly knew that they were headed to the operating room where my wife and daughter were.
And I ran down the hall towards where they were going. I saw them flood into that operating room. And then a moment later, somebody came out, and they said my wife was fine. They said, “Heather's fine, but it's the baby.” And when she came out, she wasn't breathing. They got her to be breathing again, but they said that they're going to have to work on her, and then they'll keep me updated.
So they brought me to a room across the hallway, and there I just sat and prayed. But then what seemed like forever, they came in, and they said, “Okay, we've got her stable, and they're going to bring her down to the NICU in just a little bit,” that I'd be able to see my daughter in a few minutes.
So then I went back out to the waiting room, and I was able to grab our oldest daughter, Lydia, who was out there with our friends and family, and was able to bring her into the hallway with me outside of the operating room. And when they wheeled AnnaJoy out in an incubator, we were able to see her for a brief moment, and that would be the only time that Lydia ever got to see her baby sister.
So then I was waiting for Heather to wake up in recovery so that I can tell her everything that's going on.
Heather Colvin: [00:12:30] So I didn't see AnnaJoy. We think, it's always a blur, but I don't think I got to see her for a couple of days because of recovery.