Lily – Rainbow Baby

For those who have followed our journey with Justin, thank you for taking the time to read his story and for your love and support.

The reason for starting Justin’s Journey was to share with family, friends and loved ones Justin’s life and the impact he has had and continues to have on us. Ultimately, his story is a love story. It’s not just about the love we have for our son, but the love that God had for us to send His son so we will one day be reunited with our son, Justin and our Savior.

It’s been nearly three years since we posted Justin’s journey and we wanted to share an update on what our life looks like now. As most of you recall, Justin was born at 31 weeks at the end of February (26th) and passed away early March (3rd). His loss was devastating and difficult, to say the least. We mourned and continue to grieve. After the service we went away for a few days to relax and pretty much do nothing so we could process what just happened. When we returned, life took on a whole different meaning. When you lose a spouse, you’re a widow (er). But what do you call parents who have lost a child? There isn’t a word for it. We drew closer to God than we ever had before. We prayed more, hugged Andy (our 20 month old son) more and took heart that each day was a gift.

We knew we wanted Andy to have a sibling here on earth, and hoped God did as well. It wasn’t an easy decision and would be easy to criticize, but we tried and got pregnant again mid-May, just 2 months after Justin passed away. This pregnancy, although wanted, was very difficult on Jess. There were mixed emotions about being excited for the chance at another sibling for Andy, but cautious anxiety about the outcome. Besides being a little more nauseous this pregnancy was moving along perfectly.

We knew if we were blessed to get pregnant again, we wanted to go back to the University of Michigan for the anatomy ultrasound. They welcomed us back, so when the baby was 15 weeks we made the drive to U of M. It was surreal to walk through the Women’s center, sit in the waiting room and have an ultrasound at the same place we received confirmation of Justin’s diagnosis. We were nervous, but knew God had his hand in whatever we were told. The tech took all the usual measurements and we were relieved to hear that this baby didn’t have any indicators for CDH. We were so thankful and also curious to find out if it was too early to tell the gender. The tech looked for a few more indicators and finally gave us the news, “you’re having a girl!” We were so thrilled! We hadn’t planned on having 3 children and were looking forward to having 2 boys, but now we had a little girl on the way. Jess will never forget Dan’s reaction. He probably won’t admit it, but he cried and hugged Jess, burying his head on her shoulder and said “I’m so happy we’re having a girl!” Before we left the hospital we bought a couple items at the gift shop to give to our parents as a way of revealing the gender. We stopped by Jess’ parents’ house to share the news that the ultrasound showed a perfectly ordinary baby, no CDH. We also gave them a bag with an outfit for the baby to wear when he/she came over. It was a pink, U of M onesie. We also shared the news with Dan’s parents and gave them a pink hat for our lil girl.

As Jess’ pregnancy continued, she started to have more contractions. On November 15th, after running errands she began having stronger, more frequent contractions. After calling her Dr., who informed her to come in, she made arrangements for Andy and went to the hospital. After keeping her overnight and running tests, they sent her home. After follow up appointments with her OB, she was advised to be on bedrest. So after Thanksgiving, she quit working to be on bedrest. It was one of the most difficult things to do. She couldn’t work, take care of the house, cook/clean, but most important to her she couldn’t be actively involved in the lives of Dan and Andy. Dan needed to work still and since Jess couldn’t care for Andy he went to Mimi and Grandmas during the week and he was enrolled in 2 yr old daycare. Dan transported Andy around, worked full time, cleaned, cooked, ran errands, etc. and NEVER once complained. There were times Jess felt so helpless and like a burden, but Dan always reminded her that her most important job was growing their baby girl. For better or worse, sickness or in health, Dan stood by and supported Jess during this trying time.

On thanksgiving we surprised our families by revealing the name we chose for our daughter. We decided to name her Lillian (Lily). We chose this name because of a scripture passage in Luke 12 about not worrying. That passage reminded us that God has His hand over everything we had been through with Justin and He saw us through. Part of the passage references the “Lilies of the field” and how Solomon wasn’t clothed as beautiful as they are. That’s where “Lily” came from, she’s a beautiful reminder that we have no need to worry because God always provides.

Christmas came and we got Andy a train set which we put together in the basement. That morning Jess went up and down the stairs to see his reaction and play with him. However, the extra activity caused some strong contractions and we ended up in the hospital again. Andy went to Jess’ parents’ house and we missed spending Christmas with Dan’s family and his sister and her family who were in from out of state. It was yet another blow during this pregnancy that could have easily sent us into depression and doubt. But we held fast that it wouldn’t be much longer and that Lily was coming in God’s timing.

It was January 18th, 2:30am and Jess woke up with contractions and feeling uncomfortable. After Jess’ Dr. advised we come to the hospital we arranged for Jess’ parents to get Andy around 5am. 3rd times the charm right? How many more false alarms could we have?! We waited around for a while and Jess was dilated to 4. Around 11am her Dr. came in said we’re not going home again and this baby is coming today, at 36 weeks and 6 days. She broke Jess’ water around 11:30am and the contractions got harder around noon. Jess didn’t want an epidural, if she could help it. The next couple hours were rough. Dan and Jess’ sister, Kristin, were there to support. Around 2pm things got rough and around 2:20pm- Lily was born. Lillian Brooklyn Gordon was here! We were so happy our little girl had arrived. She needed to stay in the hospital for an extra day due to blood sugar numbers, but thankfully Dan and Jess were also able to stay an extra day with her.

Lily is our rainbow baby. We love how it is described:

“A rainbow baby is a baby born after the loss of a previous child. It is understood that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean the storm never happened or that we are not still dealing with its aftermath. It means that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.”

Lily just turned 2 this month and she is so full of energy and life, God has challenged us in so many ways with her. She was quite fussy for the first 4 months of her life and cried most of the day, so she was held most of the time. This was a stark comparison to Justin, who never cried and whom we couldn’t hold until a couple hours before he passed away.

Lily has grown and developed into a spunky and sassy little girl. Andy is so patient and kind to her, despite her attitude. However, she has a sweet, caring side and loves to snuggle up and give hugs/kisses.

It’s very different raising her because we are often reminded that she’s here because Justin isn’t. It can be easy to let your mind wander into the “what ifs”, but reality pulls us back to see that this is what God wanted for us. It may never make sense to us here on earth, but God’s plans are always bigger and better than we could ever imagine. It’s beyond our understanding as to why God chose to take Justin home and then give us Lily. For better or worse, she’s here with us and we are thrilled to see what other blessings God has in store for our family.

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