“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4, ESV)
Her husband shouted with joy at the news. She was pregnant, expecting their first child. She was only 21 and they’d only been married a few months. Getting pregnant so soon wasn’t exactly how they planned it. She had received a diagnosis of PCOS, which meant getting pregnant could be difficult. But here she was pregnant. It was a miracle and a blessing all rolled into one.
They would spend the next nine months preparing for this miraculous blessing. A nursery decorated with little baby elephants awaited his arrival. In addition to his crib and changing table there was a hand-made wooden cradle crafted just for him. It was a room full of love, hopes and dreams for this precious little life.
Before they knew it the day arrived, May 7, 1991. Her labor started out normal but took a dangerous turn. An emergency c-section was needed. Right before she went under with the anesthesia, she heard his heartbeat. She would be seeing his precious face soon. She had felt his kick for months. She knew he’d have a strong personality.
But when she came to – her world had changed.
Her placenta had ruptured during the delivery. They were unable to get him out quick enough and he suffocated.
Since she’d had a c-section, doctors kept Valerie heavily sedated for a while (to keep her still so the incision could heal). She heard them say the words but didn’t believe it at first. Until she was allowed to hold his lifeless body, then reality set in. Caressing his precious little face and holding the hands and feet that had vibrantly kicked inside of her for months; it was hard to fully comprehend what had happened. She wanted it to be a bad nightmare that she could wake up from.
She had family pack up the nursery for her before she came home. She wasn’t up to seeing his room, the empty cradle. It was too overwhelming. The room was turned back into a spare bedroom that showed no signs of him. But that didn’t keep her from going to that room daily and laying on the floor, grieving him. Just wanting to feel closer to him in some way. Her arms ached to hold him.
As with the death of children, parents typically grieve differently. It would take years before Valerie and her husband Tommy would discuss the events surrounding that time.
Tommy, just a young man himself at the time was in a hospital room all alone faced with the possibility of losing both his wife and his child. As it was, the doctor placed his dead son in his arms. He was on his own while Valerie healed. It would take him years to process the anger he felt at God and life.
Early in the pregnancy Valerie had a thought “I’m too young to have a baby, it’s too soon”. When the baby died, Valerie struggled with guilt over that thought. Part of dealing with her grief was realizing that this wasn’t a punishment from God. Her thoughts didn’t create this. She had to forgive herself. She also found the strength to forgive the doctor. His negligence paid a huge role in their loss and made her chances of getting pregnant in the future almost impossible.
It would take years of physical and emotional healing before more children would enter their lives. Six years after their horrific loss God blessed with them a healthy, happy set of twin boys. And then another son a few years later.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Tommy and Valerie for over 25 years. In fact, I was the Sunday School teacher for their sons. They are Godly fun-loving people. They have a huge heart for children/youth. Tommy is the Youth Pastor at a local church.
Valerie believes that because of what they went through that God used that to open their hearts to children. “It’s made me love other people, appreciate life, love my kids more and let me see God in a real way. Burying a child was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it made me a better person. My son although his time was brief made a lifetime impact on me. His death wasn’t in vain.”
October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I asked Valerie if I could share her story this month to bring awareness to the pain that couples face in the aftermath of an infants’ death. When talking to Valerie, I asked her something she wished people would have told her back to then. She stated she wished someone would have shared the following:
- it was okay to grieve,
- that it wasn’t a punishment
- it’s not something you ever get over
Even though Thomas Calvin Brooks, III never took a breath on this earth; his life doesn’t have less value. His life was important even if others didn’t know him. His parents did. In nine months, they had developed a lifetime of love and dreams for him. Love and dreams that never go away. He would have turned 30 this year. While God has blessed Valerie with a full life, she states there’s not a day that goes by that she doesn’t think of him. Even though she grieves him every day; she knows she’s not alone.
“I know that God walked me through that and still walks with me through it all these years later.”
My Hope Endures,
Director, Ephraim Ministries