Anna Vivian: A Mother's Story

I was asked to write a Mother's Day devotional for the spring edition of the women's ministry newsletter at my church. God gave me this piece as a tribute to Anna Vivian, whose tenth birthday might have been today. She made me a first-time mom, even though I've yet to hold her in my arms.

You may know that I’m Mom to “Irish twins” – my girls who were born in 2001 and 2002, just less than a year apart. What you might not know is that Rachel is actually my middle child…and that Abigail is the youngest of three, not the younger of two.

The Lord first blessed us with a pregnancy in August, 1998. Since we planned it, I should have been thoroughly attuned to the changes in my body from the moment of conception. But I was clueless and didn’t even consider that I might be pregnant when I started inexplicably to gain weight. Instead – because of my struggles with eating disorders – I freaked out and started purging to rid myself of the extra pounds…then panicked even more when I kept gaining anyway.

Then one Saturday morning as I furiously pedaled away on my stationary bike, I stopped short. “I’ve missed at least one period!” I thought. “Could I be…” I didn’t finish the question. Instead, I threw on a jacket and raced to the corner Walgreens for a pregnancy test. And shortly thereafter, two bright pink lines stared at me from the test stick.

I rejoiced, and so did Jeff. But I also agonized. In my fruitless efforts to lose weight, I’d taken many laxatives in the previous month; had I harmed the baby?

As the doctor measured my abdomen during my first exam at the end of October, he off-handedly remarked that I seemed a bit small for as far along as I thought I was. He said, “But you probably just guessed the date wrong. Let’s schedule an ultrasound for next week.”

So a week later – on Friday, November 6, 1998 – we arrived for the ultrasound. And a short while later, the technician paged the doctor, who informed us that our baby had died a week to 10 days earlier.

I recall hearing my wail and sobs as if I were watching myself from a corner of the room. The next thing I knew, Jeff was driving me home as I curled into a fetal position on the passenger seat. And then I went to bed and didn’t get up all weekend. My child was dead. And I was sure I was to blame.

Sometime the next week – still wrapped in a fog of guilt-induced grief – I determined that my baby would be recognized. So I marched to the Press-Gazette office a mile from my home, obituary for Baby Hollenbeck in hand. Though dumbfounded at such a request for an unborn child, the clerk made an uncomfortable confirmation call to my doctor’s office and then took the notice.

I started home, a vague sense of satisfaction mingling with my shame, loss, and emptiness. And then halfway back to my house I stopped in my tracks because the Lord “whispered” something into my heart: Anna Vivian. Her name is Anna Vivian.

We hadn’t been told our baby was a girl; in fact, the doctor had made it clear that he wouldn’t test for gender. Not that he couldn’t. He just wouldn’t, and he didn’t. And yet I was as sure of what I’d “heard” as Eli was in 1 Samuel that God had spoken to the young priest-in-training.

Prior to that, the only girl’s name we’d had in mind – the one we’d agreed upon since before we were married – was Rachel. And as I’d written the obituary, we’d decided not to use that name…since we didn’t know then the gender of our lost child and also because we wanted to save that name. So Anna Vivian was truly a name given us by God.

Of course, I was glad that Anna is a biblical name. And I latched onto the knowledge that the root of Vivian is “living.” Then, weeks later, when I shared the baby’s name with Jeff’s mom, she told me that Anna and Vivian were the middle names of Jeff’s grandmothers – and I stood amazed. God had picked a name to bond our little girl to our extended family.

Right around Mother’s Day, Rachel will turn eight, and Abigail will be seven. Anna’s due date was May 16; she would be 10. I wish with all my heart that she were with us; we all do. I still sometimes grieve, wondering if my foolish neurosis caused Anna’s death. And yet, even so, I rejoice knowing that Anna is secure in her Father’s arms, that He’s forgiven me if I’m at fault, and that one day I will embrace my oldest daughter. In fact, she is now among the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11-12) cheering me on day to day as I seek to persevere in this life until we are reunited.


Toni Aurig said...

Wow Tina, Thanks for sharing such a hard message as you have. Our pastors wife spoke this morning. I was encouraged with her message as I am with what you have shared here. Both ring similar. So often we, as moms, can carry such baggage because of the things we wished we would do better or fear we won't do well enough. And while we do have a big responsibility we, moms, are people who deal with the same hard stuff that all people struggle with. In the midst of that stuff we need, we must seek community along with other moms in order to find encouragement... the courage to persevere and finish faithfully. And... faithfully we must come to the foot of the cross and on the altar place all that luggage. Praise God, we serve the one, who specializes in using people like us, moms, to do His work.
Your testimony is a powerful one. May He use you greatly!
Love, Toni

Emma said...

Tina thanks so much for your transperancy. You right you post did bless me and feel a special kindred spirit for you :) I love the name Anna Vivian it's so important and feminine. We will be reunited with our babies I believe sooner than we even think. I know the Lord is coming soon and I'm awaiting His return with joy and anticipation to see my babies in Heaven too. Because you were real with your post mother's will find healing in knowing they are not alone in feelings of guilt, but there is hope that God sees and knows and He is in control even when we don't understand. :) I pray the Lord will bless your family abundantly and richly with His glory!

Teacher/Mom said...

I just found your blog linked off of a workboxes site. This post hit home. I lost my 4th child to miscarriage. We were going to be "done" after our three girls. DH was to go get "fixed" - but he hadn't. Our finances were slumping and when I found out I was pregnant I was not happy. Then when I went in to have an ultrasound to have the pregnancy dated, the tech told me that there was no heartbeat. I was beyond devastated and consumed with guilt. I spent a week on the couch letting my kids essentially take over the house. Eventually I recovered. We had been counseled to wait at least six weeks before making any decisions about more kids/not more kids. Six weeks fell on Valentines Day. While we were out to dinner, I expressed that I didn't think I could go through another miscarriage. So DH said he would finally make his appointment. Before that happened I found out that I was pregnant again. We now have our 4th DD. DH did get snipped, but he only did one confirmation test. I'm resting in the knowledge that even though I don't think I can handle another child, if God ordains, then I'm willing. Thanks for sharing your story. Blessings.

Raisingarrows said...

So poignant. I've lost 2 babies to miscarriage (miscarriage seems like such an inept word) and then we lost our dear, sweet Emily last year when she was 7 months old.

Our culture, unfortunately, does not accept miscarriage as a baby. I love how you acknowledge that Anna was your first child despite the fact that you have not held her.

Many blessings,

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