April 7, 2020. 2:32pm. There are moments in life that, quite simply, take your breath away. When time seems to stand still and the life you once knew…is gone. At 2:31, we were clinging to hope for encouraging results from our genetic test. And at 2:32, our hearts shattered into a million pieces. At 2:32, we received the news from our doctor that the baby boy Kelly was carrying was conceived with the life limiting condition of Trisomy 18. While the rest of the world was coming to grips with the reality of a global pandemic, the world between our four walls was crumbling.
We weren’t complete strangers to Trisomy 18. Daniel and Kelly Crawford go to our home church and we had followed their journey with Abel in 2016 and had prayed for them many times, even though we didn’t know them personally. At the time, we were pregnant with our second son and he was due just 6 weeks after Abel, so their story hit close to home. Daniel and Kelly’s faith had ministered to us from afar, so one of the first things we did after receiving our diagnosis was reach out to Abel Speaks.
Meeting with the Crawfords shifted our perspective. They gave us hope. They encouraged us to give our son a name and identity beyond “baby boy”, to make as many memories with him as possible, to cherish every day we had with him and to lean into the Lord and to each other. And then they told us what we needed to hear the most at the time: that the journey would be hard, it would be painful, but we would be ok. It was hard to believe at the time that we would be anything but a shell of a human after losing our son in this way. But sitting across from them and seeing the joy in their lives gave us hope that we, too, could experience joy after loss.
In the months that followed, Abel Speaks was there for us through the unending number of medical decisions we had to make, answering our list of questions that no parent ever wants to ask another. They also sent us the most beautiful, personalized memory box filled with treasured keepsakes and a “Reeves still speaks” sign that we keep on our mantle. Months later, they would go on to help us plan Reeves’ Celebration of Life service and gave us valuable input as well as played a vital role in the service. We could not be more grateful for the ways they served and cared for us during the hardest time in our lives.
It was the end of April when we chose a name for our son: Reeves Joshua. Reeves means steward. Which fit perfectly because we felt like we’d been given the honorable task of stewarding his precious life. We chose Joshua for his middle name because it means God is our salvation. Not only is God our salvation for eternity, but He was our daily salvation from despair.
While COVID-19 limited what we could do, we did our best to make memories with Reeves. We took him to the lake, berry picking, hunted Easter eggs, celebrated holidays, and spent a lot of time reading to him, singing to him and praying for a miracle. Our older three children got to feel him kick and we talked about the things he would experience in heaven one day. The Lord was near and present at every turn. He was showing up for us in ways we would have never imagined. He was faithful and compassionate to us in the midst of our suffering.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3a)
At 37 weeks, we learned that we would need to immediately induce labor if we were to have any hope of meeting Reeves alive. After a long induction, followed by an unplanned c-section, Reeves was born on July 2, 2020 at 6:18pm, stable and breathing. That first evening with him was nothing short of sacred as we were able to have our children, parents and siblings meet our precious son. He was beautiful and perfect in every way. Abel Speaks provided a photographer for our delivery and the pictures that we have of Reeves’ birth and introducing him to his family are priceless.
Even though doctors told us to only expect a few hours with him, the Lord went on to give us another 2.5 days with Reeves. Days we knew we were never promised. We were able to feed him, bathe him, change his diaper, snuggle him and memorize every inch of him. We sang worship songs over him, prayed over him and told him all about our friends and family. He was small but he was mighty and he fought a hard fight to make it to 37 weeks. We were so incredibly proud of him.
We will never regret saying YES to life, and YES to Reeves. While this is never the story we would have written for ourselves or for our son, we would do it all again in a heartbeat for the chance to spend our days with him, both in and out of the womb. Reeves has changed us for the better, made us love Jesus more and we will forever be grateful that God chose us to be his parents.
Kelly & Justin Griffin, in memory of Reeves Joshua