Three years ago, as a new mama of two, I joined the Leadership Team for our MOPS group in Virginia. Our small group of moms gathered two times a month to encourage each other to be the brave and kind women we believed each other to be. New moms, young moms, seasoned moms, struggling moms, crazy-busy moms, working and stay-at-home moms gathered to throw out lifelines to each other. That year, a baby would change our lives, causing us to be vulnerable with each other as we opened our hearts and let each other in. The thing is, dear Sister, this baby only lived for five minutes.
One of our MOPS Members, Liz, and her husband, Jong, found out from an ultrasound at 20 weeks that their second child had Trisomy 13. The baby had an extra 13th chromosome which had caused important parts of the body to develop incorrectly. The their baby did not have a matched set of kidneys, the intestines were developing outside of the body, and its heart did not have four chambers. They were told that the baby’s condition warranted it incompatible with life. After heart-wrenching deliberations, they decided to carry the baby to term.
As Liz began to share her baby’s diagnosis with our MOPS community, she found in us a network of women who could walk through this with her. For 20 weeks, we prayed for Liz, Jong and their baby and devoted time during each Leadership meeting to talk about how we could support her. We prayed along with her that this baby would “bring more joy than sorrow.” Liz was integrated into our community of women; some who had already lost children, and others who would have miscarriages or lose a parent that year. The mutual sharing of experiences kept her from getting stuck in her despair and the feeling of isolation.
After a long labor, Liz gave birth to a baby girl weighing four pounds, 14 ounces. She and her family were able to spend time dressing her in a beautiful antique gown, taking photos, having her baptized and holding her. They adored the tiny beauty of her hands and feet. After five minutes with her family, the baby passed from the loving arms of her father to those of her heavenly father. They named her Samuelle Hope, a feminine version of the Bible story in which Hannah gave her son, Samuel, symbolically back to God after a long struggle with infertility.
Many members of our MOPS group attended Sammie’s funeral. Our Co-Coordinator, Emilie, said, “I will never forget the entire pew full of MOPS moms holding hands and crying silent tears as our hearts simultaneously broke for our friend, Liz, and rejoiced in Sammie’s eternity in heaven.” The tiny pink urn sat up front as we sang, prayed and listened as her daddy sang to her a final lullaby. Liz was astonished by how many people had gathered to celebrate the life of her tiny baby. She felt surrounded by support and love. Emilie said, “It was definitely one of the most difficult and incredible times we experienced as MOPS Leaders. God stretched and grew me in my own faith as we walked with Liz through her loss and the burial of her daughter.”
Liz remembers, “Financially, we had no plans to pay for a funeral and burial for a baby. It’s not something you save up money for.” We decided to take up a collection for Liz, and we found a matching grant to multiply our efforts. People were incredibly generous, which reduced the stress on the family significantly. They knew they wouldn’t be saddled with debt forever.
Our other Co-Coordinator, Brooke, said, “With child care, maternity clothes and other ways that our MOPS group comforted Liz and her family, we grew close as a MOPS group and Leadership Team. We all took some huge steps in our faith that year as we completely trusted God to provide – and He did!” We helped watch her son, knitted blankets for the baby and brought many meals.
“MOPS showed my husband care through his love language of food,” Liz remembers, smiling. Liz was also sent two huge bags of cards that carried her through the toughest days of the last 20 weeks, knowing her child was going to be born dying. Brooke says that “God orchestrated that MOPS year in ways that we never expected. We had no idea that we were going to be called to minister to so many moms who were touched by this family and the birth of their child. We watched God move mountain after mountain.”
After walking with Liz through this experience, our MOPS group was forever changed. She shared, “What we went through made us a deeper, closer group. People could really share their griefs and fears, because the group was obviously a safe place for that. We got past image, rivalry, perfectionism and a lot of the traps that ruin real fellowship and love. Sammie’s life and death made us real with ourselves and with each other. It took us to the deep places of compassion and generosity, even sacrificially. I cannot even express how grateful we still are for the way God met our family during that time through the warmth and receptivity of MOPS.”
In third grade, Alisa Laska wrote an essay entitled, “Women Can Do Anything.” She continues to encourage women to find joy in the everyday through her blog http://www.pancakesandperseverance.com/. She and her husband play man-on-man defense with their two kids, ages 2 and 6, ending the day with laughter and a good cup of tea.