Episode 4 - Grieving a Life-Limiting Diagnosis with Amy Balentine


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Join us for a conversation with Amy Balentine about her story of receiving a life-limiting diagnosis for her son, Simon. Amy shares her journey of walking through Simon's pregnancy and the seven days he lived on earth before going to Heaven. After grieving Simon's death, Amy and her husband also lost three other babies early in pregnancy. Amy discusses with Ashley how this shaped her faith journey and why she has chosen to look for blessings in the middle of her suffering. She encourages grieving moms to lean on Jesus in the darkness of grief. In this episode, we discussed:

  • Navigating a life-limiting diagnosis in pregnancy

  • How to handle people who encourage you to "end the suffering"

  • Choosing life and letting the Lord decide when Simon would pass away

  • Why it's important to trust God to lead and carry you through this difficult season

  • The difference between miracles and tragedies

  • Finding blessings in the midst of suffering

  • How to surrender control and choose our reactions to unwanted circumstances

  • Faith statements and how we can teach our heart to feel what our brain knows to be true: "God is good even when my baby dies."

  • How to handle lonely, dark nights filled with worry when carrying a baby who is expected to pass away

  • Celebrating your baby's life even when you're sad

  • Ways to connect with and cherish your baby in your pregnancy

  • Amy's ministry You Made Me Mom and the importance of hospitality in pregnancy loss support groups

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!)

  1. In this episode, we discussed the difference between earthly tragedies and Heavenly miracles. When viewing suffering through the lens of eternity, our perspective of our tragic stories can change. In your grief, what blessings have you witnessed in spite of the pain? Are there ways you can change your perspective?

  2. Amy shares the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9 about God's power being made perfect in our weakness. How does this verse resonate with you in letting Christ's power rest on you?

  3. If you are currently pregnant with a baby who has been given a life-limiting diagnosis, what advice in this episode was the most helpful? Write down a few ideas that will help you bond and connect with your baby. (If you have experienced this in the past, write down a few special memories you had with your baby as you reflect on your pregnancy and/or birth of your baby).

  4. Amy mentioned the faith statement: "God is good even when my baby dies." She talks about how it's hard to feel (in your heart) that this is true even though you know it in your mind. Do you struggle with questioning God's goodness? Write a letter to God sharing how you feel, and ask Him to help your "heart catch up to your head" like Amy said.

  5. We talked about the New Heaven and New Earth and Jesus' Second Coming. How does the hope of Heaven impact your grieving? Does the promise of eternity comfort your heart and in what ways?

  6. Amy mentioned that this is likely the hardest road you will ever have to walk through, but you don't have to go through it alone. She said that Jesus will carry you through. How can you surrender your grief to God and allow Him to carry the burden with you?

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CONNECT WITH OUR GUEST


Amy Balentine is the founder of You Made Me Mom, a nonprofit that supports grieving mothers.


Amy is a daughter of the King, wife to Adam, and mother to seven children. Three children are in her care while four reign in Glory.


Connect with Amy:

Facebook /youmadememom

Instagram @youmadememom

www.youmadememom.com

 

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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 TRANSCRIPT


Episode 4: Grieving a Life-Limiting Diagnosis with Amy Balentine


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.


I am so excited to introduce to you today my good friend, Amy Balentine. Amy is the Founder of You Made Me Mom, a non-profit ministry, and I've had the blessing of knowing her since 2015 when both her and I were starting our non-profits right at the beginning, and we've journeyed together through this.


We actually live just three hours away here in Kansas, and she is such a supportive, encouraging friend who values community over competition, and she has such a beautiful testimony to share with you. I'm really looking forward to you getting to know Amy today, so let me share a little bit more about her.


Amy is a daughter of the King, wife to Adam, and mother to seven children. Three children are in her care while four reign in Glory. Amy had two sons die in 2014, Simon, who lived one breathing week, and Thomas, who lived until 13 weeks gestation.


In 2020, Amy experienced two more miscarriages and is now walking through secondary infertility. Since 2015, Amy has been serving in the pregnancy and infant loss community. The Lord gave her a ministry called You Made Me Mom, a support group that serves mothers who have lost babies during pregnancy or infancy through one year of breathing life.


The support group gathers once a month in Amy's home, where she shares the message that God is good even when a baby dies. You Made Me Mom has seven chapter locations, including one in Canada and one online.


Amy is a 2005 graduate of the University of Kansas and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a lover of hospitality, fine food, and a well-organized home, which all stem from her 10 years as a wedding and event planner before her calling to work in the home as a mom and a non-profit leader.


You are going to be so blessed by Amy, and I can't wait for you to listen in on this conversation about grieving a life-limiting diagnosis. Let's welcome Amy Balentine.

Welcome, Amy. I am so honored to have you here today. Our listeners probably don't know this, but we have known each other since 2015, when both of our ministries were just starting, and we were getting our 501c3 paperwork back.


And God has been so good to bring you into my life and have you to walk this journey of ministry and motherhood with you. I'm so glad you're here. Would you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself?


Amy Balentine: [00:04:08] Yes. I am so glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me. Let's see, I'm mom to seven, I am married to Adam. To give you an idea of being a mom to seven, it sounds like I've got this very loud house, and I do, but I'm only a mom to three living children, so I've got four babies in Heaven.


I know we'll go into detail about those later, but one lived one week of breathing life, another died around 13- 14 weeks gestation. And then I had two miscarriages last year, right in the middle of the pandemic.


And so, I believe we're walking through secondary infertility right now, but we also have three living kids at home, so we're just so thankful for the lives that we've been given that are in front of us. And I also lead a ministry called You Made Me Mom, and it's a support group for moms who've lost babies during pregnancy or infancy.


Ashley Opliger: [00:05:05] Wow. Amy, I'm so sorry for all of your losses, and going through that in the pandemic is just so, so hard, and I know that's even more isolating walking through that when everything was shut down. I'm sure also your support groups were impacted just like ours were through COVID, and navigating that, just a really difficult year.


So we'll definitely be praying for you going through infertility and grieving your babies. You have such a testimony of walking through grief with such grace and gratitude, walking that dance between grief and joy, and always having a grateful heart, even though you're grieving.


And so if we could go back and talk about Simon first, your precious little boy Simon, who lived for seven days on earth, and you chose life when you knew that he had a life-limiting diagnosis, and you were able to make these memories with him when you weren't expecting to get to spend that time with him after birth. So would you tell me about his life and his diagnosis?


Amy Balentine: [00:06:11] Yeah, I would absolutely love to talk about him. In January of 2014, my husband and I found out that we were carrying a son that was different than our first pregnancy. We went in for an 18-week ultrasound, and we found that his kidneys were enlarged, and so they encouraged us to go to a Level 2 ultrasound.


And I didn't really know what a Level 2 ultrasound was, and I was pretty good about not Googling enlarged kidneys and what a Level 2 ultrasound was. I just decided, “Well, I'll go to a Level 2 scan, and they'll tell me if his kidneys are enlarged or not, and then I'll be on with my day,” and that's not what happened.


We went into the Level 2 ultrasound, it was about an hour and a half, and they said, “We'd like for you to get on the phone with our perinatologist,” who wasn't in the office that day, so it must've been pretty important for them to get him on the phone with me.

And he shared that our son indeed had large kidneys, and they’d really like to take a better look at him, as they thought he had other anomalies: a cleft lip, a cleft palate, and a heart defect.


And so they asked us to come in the next day for another scan. And when we went into the scan and the perinatologist was sitting in the room with us, they looked directly at Simon's brain, and they noticed that his brain hadn't divided into two hemispheres.


And not knowing very much about the development in the womb, I was a wedding planner prior to being a mom, and so I didn't have a lot of experience with development in the womb, and I said, “Well, can it still split?” I didn't know.


And he said, “No. More than likely, your baby has a diagnosis called Trisomy 13,” which is an incompatible-with-life diagnosis. All of these words were very new to me. I had never heard of life being incompatible with life. And so he said, “I'd like to do an amniocentesis if you would allow.” And so we elected to do that, and those findings told us that indeed Simon did have full Trisomy 13.


And my husband and I, and many others in the trisomy world, we call it a life-limiting diagnosis. And he very much was compatible with life. I could feel him moving in my womb, and I knew that there was life inside of me.


So we found out that his brain had not divided into two hemispheres; he had enlarged kidneys, a heart defect, extra fingers and toes, a cleft lip and palate, possibly no eyes, and many other anomalies. And we decided on that day, and prior to even getting the final phone call, that Simon was a boy and that he indeed had Trisomy 13, that we were just going to celebrate this little boy's life.


The Lord so richly blessed us with a time in our pre-marriage class, mine and Adam, my husband's pre-marriage class, there was a question that talked about having children. I had explained to my husband, and he had reflected it back to me as well: No matter what children we have, I don't want to investigate too far in the womb. I want whatever children the Lord will give us.


And I obviously did not have a glass ball, but how precious was the Lord to pave this path? Even before we said, “I do,” to commit these words to one another and to commit to Simon that we were going to let his life and the Lord together live out Simon's life, and we weren't going to make any decisions. I got to be Simon's mom, and I was chosen to be his mom.


Termination was absolutely an option; they offered abortion to us, but we very quickly knew. I mean, from that pre-marriage class, that wasn't even an option for our family because we wanted to see what Simon's life was going to do. And I'm so thankful that we sat back and let the Lord and Simon do the work on his life. So if I could just go ahead and tell you about his birth ...


Ashley Opliger: [00:10:46] Yeah.


Amy Balentine: [00:10:47] So it was at about 36 weeks gestation. It was in May of 2014, I realized I was in labor and my eldest son, I don't think I've mentioned his name yet, his name is Teddy. And Teddy just so happened, just so happened? Right? Nothing is a coincidence. The Lord had perfectly planned this out.


Adam and I were supposed to go on a date that night, and our 18-month, year-old son, Teddy, was spending the night with my in-laws. And I started laboring at about 4:30. And at about 7:00, I acknowledged I was truly in labor. And we called our videographer that we had in place and a photographer that we had in place, both good friends and told them we'd be heading to the hospital at some point that night.


And I showed up at 9:00 PM, and I was carrying a birthday cake literally in my hands, laboring with Simon at the same time, telling them I'm about ready to push. And they got me into triage. They said, “You're a nine, it's time to push.”


And I'm like, “All right, great.” Two pushes later, Simon was born. He was born with his eyes open. He indeed had eyeballs. We didn't know if he would be born breathing. We were told he could die in utero, that a third of the babies die in utero, a third die during labor because it's just so hard on their fragile bodies, and a third die minutes or hours after birth.


So for him to be born, I wasn't hooked up to fetal heart monitoring, so I had no idea if his heart had stopped beating. I just thought if I had been hooked up to fetal heart monitoring, it'd be hard to labor through. And I know the experience with Bridget, you know what it's like.


And I went on to labor with another baby who had died, and I was thankful to just be surprised. And we were doing the same thing regardless. If Simon was alive or Simon had died, we were going to celebrate his life with that cake that I had brought in, with family meeting him, so it didn't matter during labor if he was alive or not.


So when he came out with his eyes open, staring at Adam and me, we were so thankful, so many prayers had been answered in that moment. And we prayed, we dedicated him to the Lord that night and prayed that he'd be alive in the morning when his big brother Teddy came to visit him.


And he indeed was. And 15 hours after birth, we took him home and he lived out the next seven days and 22 glorious minutes in our home, and it was the biggest unexpected blessing. My aloud prayer, the one that we shared on our blog and publicly, was that Simon breathe.


And indeed, that was a lofty prayer, like a given that your baby would breathe, but that was our prayer, given Simon's diagnosis. And when he breathed, I was so thankful. But my private prayer, the one that I barely shared with anybody, definitely my husband, I think was about the only person that I shared with him; I wanted him to dwell in our home so badly.


And when I was rolled out with him in my arms in that wheelchair to our car, it was such a blessing. So we were so thankful to bring him home for those seven [days] and 22 minutes. And it was hard to live on hospice with a baby at home with a feeding tube and oxygen.


I had had no experience prior to that time, certainly never experienced palliative care, certainly not with an infant. But I learned that Simon was just an infant. He just needed our love and sometimes a little extra oxygen. And we just let his body do what it wanted to do.


Five different times during that week, we thought Simon was going to be with the Lord, and we surrendered him time and time again. And he would go like a dusky blue and then he’d pink back up and we'd get another day with him.


I know that this is a very typical thing with apnea and with parents that walk trisomy and other similar diagnoses. You think it's the end and they kind of bounce back, for lack of better words.


We're so thankful for that time, but it was excruciating. I won't pretend that it wasn't, but it was beyond a gift. And I can't believe that I was chosen to experience such a rich blessing of Simon’s life and to see the Lord work through my family and through Simon’s life.


Ashley Opliger: [00:15:48] Yes, such a miracle! And watching your faith through this experience, I didn't know you at the time, but hearing your story of surrendering him and trusting the Lord through your pregnancy, and choosing life and saying, “I'm going to let God decide when Simon is going to go home into Glory with Jesus in Heaven,” letting God decide that. “I know that this is what the doctors are saying, but I'm going to trust that God's going to live out his days.”


And then even during his birth of saying, “I don't need to hear the monitors. I'm going to trust and be present in this moment with God and see what happens.” And that's really the way I see your faith, is a very present surrender, in-the-moment surrender to God and trusting the Lord to lead and to guide.


And you got to witness this miracle in Simon's life. And I know that those days at home with him were difficult, but at the same time you also experienced joy and got to show him love. And looking at all those pictures, you actually, several years ago, wrote a blog post for Bridget’s Cradles and shared your story on our website.


I'll link that there too, because you share some beautiful photos from Simon's birth, with the birthday cake, and going home and being there, and Teddy getting to meet him. And it's such a beautiful picture of getting to cherish those moments and live in the present. And I know every year since then, you celebrate that time with your family and honor his life in that way.


But I want to go back to your pregnancy and walking through a life-limiting diagnosis. I know there are so many moms who, whether it's Trisomy 13 or anencephaly or some other diagnosis, even in my case, we weren't given a life-limiting diagnosis, but I had a subchorionic hemorrhage, in which case we knew that there was a very good potential that she would be stillborn or be born too early to survive.


And there's so many moms that walk this journey of not knowing if their baby will survive or having a diagnosis that could end in the baby dying. What was that pregnancy like for you, once you knew that there were complications? And did people ask questions of why or not understand why you were carrying a child who you knew would likely die? What was that like for you?


Amy Balentine: [00:18:16] Well, it was definitely a learning curve to learn about suffering. I, of course, like everyone, have had ups and downs, mountaintop highs and valley lows, but being told that your child will not live when they're kicking and moving inside of you is a very conflicting message.


I accepted it from the start. I didn't even really necessarily pray for the miracle of full healing. My prayers were really what I shared earlier, and I love that you called them miracles that we saw in Simon's life, because most people wouldn't see Simon's life as a miracle. Actually, when we still tell the story to this day to people that are just meeting us or Adam has a new work colleague now seven years into it, people are just like, “That is such a tragic story.”


And their response is always, it makes Adam and I giggle because it's like, “Well, no. I guess you're right. On the surface, that is a really tragic story.” But at the same time, like you said, it was just puddled, I mean, there's rivers of miracles through it.


And I think that that's what we have to recognize when we're walking with these very special pregnancies and special babies, if our doctors have told us that we have a life-limiting diagnosis. So we're realizing that God is in charge. I didn't choose Simon's diagnosis. I didn't choose for my son Thomas to die, who was our 13-week gestation loss, but I am in control of the way I respond.


So God is in charge. I'm in control of the way I respond. Do I run away from the suffering? Or do I allow the Lord to give me the rich blessing that I may see through this suffering? That's not saying, “Muster up your own strength.” Right?


He's saying to us, “No, no, let Me carry you. Let Me be the one to carry you through this valley or this hardship, or, this terminal diagnosis of your baby.” That's actually what 2 Corinthians 12 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me.”


So that was the hardest journey I've ever gone through. For moms that are listening, that are experiencing and are in the middle of a pregnancy like this, more than likely this will be the hardest thing you will ever walk through. And for moms who are walking after the loss, miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, early childhood loss, this is likely the hardest road. But we're off the hook. We can surrender to the Lord and give it all to Him. We don't have to carry the burden.


Now that doesn't mean that this is going to be easy or that we're not going to have fear, but we're allowed to put it at the foot of the cross and let Him carry it, and for us to do all the practice work that we've done in the years leading up to this. So for me and you, I know we've been walking with the Lord since childhood. I know a lot of women might not be walking with the Lord at all, and some might be newer believers. They might have just this last weekend decided to follow the Lord.


But for those of us that have been practicing walking with the Lord, whether it be for six months or 60 years, we've had practice for this moment. We've had training. So we know that, “God is good even when my baby dies.” That's a faith statement. That's saying, “I have been practicing for this moment. My head is telling me, “‘God is good, even when my baby dies,’ but this is not good, Lord.”


And so you can repeat that over and over and over again until for me what happened was that my heart caught up. I knew God was good. And eventually my heart did catch up. And my heart wasn't saying God wasn't good, but my brain, the two needed to come back together after spending a little bit of time of my heart breaking and thinking, “Well, God, this is not good. Like how could this be good? This feels terrible.”


And so you've had all this time to practice and now it's time to really put your faith in motion. “Lord, this is not good, but I know You are good. And I know You are with me and I know that You have gone before me. And so I will put my hand in Yours and I will continue to walk with You even when it doesn't feel good.” And we know that in Genesis 3 there was the Fall, and because of the Fall, the Lord only has so much tattered yarn to work with for each one of us. So at the end of Simon's life, He said, “He has this tattered yarn.” He said, “This is it. His life is complete. I find this complete.”


Same thing with Thomas at 13-14 weeks gestation, He says that, “This world is broken. This is not the way I intended for it to be. And by the way, I'm coming back. This is going to get better.” But right now this is where we are, and Thomas' life was complete at 13 or 14 weeks gestation.


I mean, I don't have answers for any of this, but that is one way that I have been able to reconcile, “How can I be living in a world with a good God that allows death to happen?” Well, we're in the in-between. We're in this time of suffering; He's allowing it to happen.


There is more to come. He is returning. The New Heavens and New Earth that we are being promised will have no more death, no more tears, no more suffering. And I'm going to have arms of children because I have so many kids in Heaven and so many on earth. And there's so much to look forward to!


Ashley Opliger: [00:24:35] It’s the same, like when you said his co-worker said, “What a tragic story,” but when you think about it from the Christian perspective of living between two gardens, the Garden of Eden, and then the brokenness, the Fall, and now we're living between this time of, “Okay, here's what's to come,” when God restores the earth, He comes back and He dwells with His people on this earth without death and sin, that's not tragic.


We know that this is a miracle and that we have hope to see our babies again and spend eternity with them. Even when we only got to spend a couple of weeks carrying them in our wombs, we have this eternal hope that we look for. And it is tragic on earth, when you look at it from an earthly perspective, it is tragic.


And even when you're a Christian, it's tragic what we're going through. I never want to minimize the grief and the trauma of walking through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. It is, like you said, the hardest thing anyone can ever experience.


But when you look at it from an eternal perspective and you have hope in the Second Coming of Christ, we know that this is not the end of the story and that you will get to hold all your babies again, and I'll get to hold Bridget, and everyone listening who has faith in Christ who has a baby that has passed away, they will get to see them again. And so that's when I think you can go from a tragedy to a miracle and to that hope.


I love that you brought about that conversation too, about the head and the heart, because it's so easy for us to feel that God is not good, when something happens that doesn't feel good and doesn't feel right and doesn't make sense why a good God would allow it, but looking at His sovereignty and knowing He’s sovereign over all, and that His character never changes.


He's always good, regardless of our circumstances. And what you said, bringing our head and our heart together to know the Truth in God's Word, but to feel it, and to live that out and to practice that, even if you haven't been a believer for long, just rehearsing what you said over and over and over again until you feel it and believe it to be true. So thank you for sharing that.


Ashley Opliger: [00:26:51] 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: [00:28:30] So we're going to skip ahead here to what you've done with all of this pain and what God has done through your life, through this pain and your obedience to comfort other moms and to walk other moms who have been given the same life-limiting diagnosis.


So if you want to share more about how you've encouraged moms that come into your life, God has brought into your life, encourage them to dance between joy and grief, knowing their child may not breathe at all or for a very long time, what does that look like when you walk that path with a new mom?


Amy Balentine: [00:29:04] Well, that is one of the beautiful things about You Made Me Mom. It's a support group for moms who've lost babies during pregnancy or infancy that the Lord gifted to me. And I host it out of my home in Kansas City; we've got other locations. And not only am I getting to walk with women in the support group, but I also get a lot of one-on-one time with women.


So they might be a mom that is local or I've got a great friend now in Mexico that had a life-limiting diagnosis as well, another trisomy diagnosis. And she found me on Instagram and we were able to walk with one another through her pregnancy.


And what I love about walking with women, whether it be locally face-to-face, through Instagram, on the phone, via text, is that we're able to encourage each other. It sounds crazy to think that this many years out, I still am finding waves of grief crashing up over me, but I'm getting to walk with these women at the same time, remembering what it was like seven years ago.


And as you know, it doesn't go away. Our grief changes over time. Right? But it doesn't necessarily fully dissipate. I mean, it's still kind of present and it can wash up over you. And it's wonderful to be able to walk with women and hear from them and encourage them in saying, “I know that this is a really hard walk. You aren't alone. I am here and the Lord is with you.”


And in those nights, I don't know, being on bed rest for you, I know you were on bed rest for quite a while with Bridget, and I don't know about you, but it was challenging for me to lay down next to my husband. I mean, I was so thankful to lay down next to my husband at the end of the day, but it was really hard for me to sleep. I was scared. I was sad, and that's a lot of times when our babies are so active at night, and so it was time that I actually got to spend with Simon in the middle of the night and also Jesus.


I could see my husband's chest rising and falling and he's over there just sleeping away with no issues. He was grieving too, but Simon's pregnancy was very challenging for my husband, as it is for all dads that are walking through similar stories. But that's really when I started to spend more time with Jesus, knowing He was sitting, laying with me right there.


I felt so alone. And I could hear the Lord saying to me, it wasn't like an audible, just to be very clear, but I had thoughts of, “I'm here with you, Amy. You are not alone. I am walking with you.”


And to be able to say that to another mom who's in Mexico or Canada and say to them, “How are your nights? Are your nights really hard?” And especially if they're not a believer, it is a privilege to be able to say, “Hey, I'm going to share with you something that helped me through the evenings and through the night when it was so dark and I was with my own thoughts and I was scared of,” this is a hard one to admit, but I was afraid of what Simon might look like given his anomalies, which is insane now that I know what he looks like.


I think he's the sweetest, cutest baby, but I was scared. And I'm able to connect with women to say, “Those nights are scary. They are quiet. They are dark, and you are finally with your own thoughts. But the Lord is with you too, and He wants to hear it all. He wants your anger. He wants your happiness. He wants to hear that you are in that grief-and-joy dance of being so sad at this diagnosis, but so thankful that you are this baby's mom.”


I think it's hard for people to watch us walk through these pregnancies. It doesn't make sense if you haven't walked it. It's like, “Why would you enter that suffering? Why wouldn't you just end it now, and end this life and not continue the pregnancy?” It seems easier to end it. End the suffering. That's what the world tells us to do, and move on to another pregnancy. Right?


I don't believe that that's where the Lord is calling us to. I think He wants to do the great work in these lives. And that's a great privilege, that I love to be able to walk with women and say, “Pause. If your life is not in danger, your child's life is not in danger, you can carry on the pregnancy with everybody being safe, let's just sit in this moment. Let's feel the suffering. Let's feel the pain. Let's feel the joy and let's let the Lord and this baby do its life's work. I think we'll be surprised on the other side, if we allow them to do that great work.”


Ashley Opliger: [00:34:30] And I think we talked about this before, but in choosing life, when you choose the opposite and you end the suffering, end the baby's life, either way, if they truly have a life-limiting diagnosis, they're going to pass away. But the difference is that one is that you made the choice and you decided and took control into your own hands versus letting God play the baby's life out as He intended, on the day and hour that He chose.


And so if you're going to be grieving this loss either way, I feel as though, and you know I'm very pro-life in my beliefs, and I believe that the Bible is clear on that, but I think also just from looking at it from a grieving and healing perspective, the mom is going to be grieving either way, but instead of having this guilt and regret of making this choice versus being able to let the Lord work and walk through this, I think there's so much healing that can come from walking that path of choosing life and letting God decide, and walking through the suffering and the joy and those extra moments with the baby.


After I went through my own experience of walking through the 11 weeks of bed rest where I didn't know if Bridget was going to survive or not, I ended up writing on our website a list of things that I could tell another mom that's walking through this, if they're expecting loss, what they can be doing to bond and connect with their baby.


And I know you have shared so many of these ideas as well, but if there's a mom listening and looking for a list, we do have this on our website and we'll connect it on the show notes. But I share ideas on singing to your baby and reading the same book every day or talking to your baby.


I also list ideas for the baby to get to know the mom, like eating your favorite foods and ice cream. For me, ice cream is a favorite, letting the baby taste those things through you and getting to know you. I think there's a lot that you can do in those weeks of time where you get to bond and feel your baby move around and really spend that time connecting.


And I know Angie Smith wrote the book I Will Carry You, which was a really impactful book for me. I'm talking about this dance between grief and joy and choosing life. We'll link that as well. It's on our website already, but I think there's so much that can come from that, even though it's a really hard road to walk.


And so you mentioned You Made Me Mom, which is your ministry, it's a non-profit and you have support groups all over now, in your home in Kansas City, you have one here in Wichita local to me, and several other states and cities across the country. And even, do you have one out of the country now, I was thinking too?


Amy Balentine: [00:37:19] I do. Yeah, we have one in Canada as well.