Written as a Hope Mommies Retreat Testimony, original can be found here.
March 23, 2015: My daughter, Eisley Hope, was born at 31 weeks. I went into preterm labor and much to our surprise, she was delivered with a chromosome abnormality and fatal diagnosis. After 12 sweet days, I held my girl for the 4th and final time while “Oceans” by Hillsong played on repeat in the background. To say my faith was shaken is an understatement. The first 15 years of my life, I was a part of a reformed church, and I understood that having a “crisis of faith” supposedly meant that I wasn’t saved. I should be blessed to have such affliction and burden to carry—or joyful and thankful that my daughter was dancing with Jesus—but I wasn’t. I am truly thankful she is with Jesus, but that doesn’t make my hurt any less. She is still gone, there will always be someone missing in our home. We gave Eisley her middle name, Hope, after my grandmother who had recently passed away. We had also blessed Eisley with a life verse that went along with her middle name, Hebrews 6:19. We had no clue the significance this verse would hold for us. Looking back, I can see the gentle ways Jesus prepared my heart. It’s a blessing, and a struggle to know He was so tightly intertwined in her short life and death.
January 15, 2016: It was around 6:00am and I was already at work, I had started coming in early just to get a few hours of work in before being overwhelmed by the presence of other people. It was a normal morning sitting in my office, crying and simply being exhausted from living the last 286 days without my sweet baby girl. Like so many times before, I opened up Google and searched something along the lines of “how to read your Bible after your baby dies.” I perused a few blogs, and somewhere along the way came across Hope Mommies. I thought I’d join one of the social media groups, and I listened to the video they ask you to watch before joining. I was blown away by how everything I was hearing resonated so deeply with my heart. I hadn’t been a Hope Mama for long, but I already knew that terms like “angel baby” and “rainbow baby” rubbed me the wrong way. The introduction video specifically addressed terminology, and I was convinced this group was the real deal. I quickly read through Hope Mommies mission, vision, and other doctrinal values and was surprised to see how closely it lined up with what my damaged heart and faith believed. I listened to all of the Hope Mommy videos with tears running down my face while I worked that morning. Listening to Amy, Elyse and Erin’s Hope Stories, my heart was proud to be a Hope Mom, yet ached so deeply at the same time. I was immediately drawn to the Biblical truths I was hearing; in the last 9 months I had heard nothing comparable. When I saw there was a retreat, I didn’t hesitate. I registered and then went home that night, convinced my husband I wasn’t crazy, and bought my tickets to Texas. If anyone knows me, they know this is not my normal. Since my daughter passed away, I don’t intentionally put myself in social settings, especially ones where I don’t know a single person.
I was immediately drawn to the Biblical truths I was hearing; in the last 9 months I had heard nothing comparable. – Sarah, Hope Mom to Eisley
When I arrived at the retreat, my anxiety skyrocketed. What had I done? Where on earth was I, in the middle of Texas?I was the first of my roommates to arrive, there were bags with sweet gifts on our beds. Gifts that honored me as a mama and pampered my weary soul. While I sat there nervously crying, my two roommates tumbled into our room giggling and laughing. This wasn’t their first year and they immediately put me at ease.
We introduced ourselves and our sweet babies, and I knew it was the right decision to come. Stepping into the main room at the retreat a short 3 weeks after hearing about Hope Mommies, my breath was literally taken away. I was immediately overwhelmed by the fact that I was literally surrounded by an entire room of women who knew the pain my heart was feeling and the deep sorrow I was walking through. The entire setting was peaceful and ministered to my heart. There was a prayer room, lit with twinkle lights and soft lacy tenting to give privacy to those weeping and crying out to Jesus. There was a wailing wall allowing us to be honest and write down our hurts and praises. There was a wall of pictures of our babies, honoring their beautiful little faces, feet, hands and ultrasounds. There were Inboxes where you could leave notes for other mamas. There was a wall of names and birthdays; just to see my sweet Eisley’s name written down…it touched my mama soul and I felt alive. She was real. She was here. Her traumatic birth and 12 short days on earth made me a mama, and her death did not negate that.
Just to see my sweet Eisley’s name written down…it touched my mama soul and I felt alive. She was real. She was here. Her traumatic birth and 12 short days on earth made me a mama, and her death did not negate that.
I left that Sunday with a different type of hope, it was Biblically rooted and came with a calming peace that settled in my heart. I still hurt, I still cried while driving to work, but I knew I had the most genuine group of women supported me. Women who will remind me for the rest of my life that I have hope; because of Jesus, every morning that I wake up I am one day closer to seeing my sweet Eisley.