On Monday night, July 20th, Our precious Goldie laid in our arms for the first time as she took her last breaths. These ten days were the most amazing, profound, heartbreaking, and life changing days we’ve ever had and maybe will ever experience. We want to share our story of saying goodbye to our baby girl.
Every morning in the NICU Dr’s and nurses do their rounds and meet outside of Goldie’s room to discuss everything that is happening with her; what medications they are trying, which procedures are being done and what their next course of action is. Since Goldie was in such critical condition, and the cause was still a mystery, there was always a large group there for educational purposes and multiple Neonatologists present to discuss various options of treatment.
David and I usually attended these rounds but on Monday we decided to take advantage of a good night’s sleep and not rush to NICU in the morning. My Dad had been sleeping on a couch in the hospital for the past 4 nights. He woke up and attended rounds and then afterward walked down the road to the place where we were staying. He sat down in our room. Fighting tears, he told us that at today’s rounds the doctors agreed on the fact that Goldie’s condition had only gotten worse over the last 10 days. Her kidneys showed no improvement or much sign of functioning at all, recent X-rays showed more signs of bleeding in the brain, and we were still in the place of having to fully support her heart & lungs, while her pain continued to increase. All of this lead the Doctors to present the question “how long do we want to keep supporting this little deteriorating body that is living in discomfort?” These facts weren’t news to us. We’ve known all along the state of her body and it’s progress (or lack of) each day, but of course we clung to a bit of hope that things might miraculously turn around.
Later in the afternoon the doctors sat down with David and I to tell us that they didn’t see Goldie recovering. David and I had agreed the day before that when/if the doctors ever thought that moving to palliative care was in Goldie’s best interest then we would trust them in that. Once we knew that they didn’t see Goldie’s body recovering, we felt it would be selfish to keep a heart beating in such a sweet, innocent body if it wasn’t leading to her getting better. They told us that it was completely up to us how long we wanted to continue care for Goldie, whether it be hours, days or weeks. David and I came to the decision to withdraw care that night, as soon as our immediate family could all be there. We called the family and told them to start driving. We went through the process of deciding & telling the doctors how we wanted that moment to play out, and all the other hard & emotional decisions that needed to be made for after Goldie passed.
David, Poppy & I spent the afternoon basically pacing, grieving, and waiting. Our parents & siblings had all arrived by 7:30 pm and we all sat in a room outside the NICU, praying together through tears. David’s brother Matt read out Psalm 139 before the family went in couple by couple to say goodbye to little Goldie for the last time.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them…”
After our family all said their goodbyes, David and I made our way to Goldie’s dimly lit, machine filled room for one last time. I sat down as the nurses switched over her respirator to one more mobile so she could be transferred from the bed to my arms, and they increased her dose of pain medication so she could lay with us comfortably. Since I laid my eyes on Goldie 10 days earlier I ached for the moment she would first lay in my arms, no matter what circumstance it was under.
I sat there crying with the feeling of a gaping hole in the centre of my body, like my limbs could give out at any moment. The nurse placed her in my arms (still receiving oxygen & medicines) and I began to cry out, and held her so close to fill that empty space I felt every time I looked at her. I could barely see her face my eyes were so full of tears. David and I stroked her body, kissed her head, prayed over her, and spoke comforting words to her; telling her to rest, to go home where she would be free of all the pain and suffering. The nurses then helped transfer Goldie with all her tubes to David and we spent more time feeling her little chest breathe before we let the nurses know that we were ready to remove the oxygen. I cuddled her close to me as they shut off all the machines. I placed my hand on her swollen, bruised, soft chest and felt her heart continue to beat for about 2 minutes. In those minutes even through her sedation she opened her eyes. Each time she looked up at us I felt Goldie & God saying through those eyes “I’m okay. I’m going home.”
Then that heart beat beneath my hand stopped, her body was still and overcome with peace & rest. I cried over her until I could get the words out to David that she was gone. We held her hands and her toes, touched her soft lips, tongue, nose and eyes. Her face was filled with more beauty than I have ever seen in a face. I no longer saw her cuts, bruises, blisters, bandages, and tubes. I just saw a purely angelic, beautiful, peaceful baby face with Poppy’s nose, pursed lips and a forehead covered in soft blonde newborn peach fuzz. We went between sobbing, and being completely in awe of the experience. We felt so close to Heaven and God’s presence. It was unearthly to feel my child’s soul leave and meet Jesus.
Once Goldie had passed we both felt like it was no longer her, it was just the symbol of her. But that symbol was so hard to let go of, knowing that when I let go of her I would never hold her again. I would never walk through the NICU hall and come lay my head on her bed just to be near her. The empty space that I was pressing her tiny body into, would remain there without her. We sat a little longer in Goldie & God’s presence to mourn, talk to Goldie and David sang the words “It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
On our drive home we sat silent in a strange place of feeling heartbroken and completely in awe of what we had just experienced. We were overwhelmed with peace, knowing that it was Goldie’s time to go home, and joy for our baby girl. Goldie spent her ten days on earth in a body that was so sick and now she was free from all the pain of this earth and being embraced by God, rejoicing in Heaven. I smile for her just typing that.
This 10 day journey was the greatest blessing we have ever received. Constantly playing in the back of my mind is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I truly feel blessed that God took our hearts & broke them, making us changed people for his purpose, taking us so much deeper in our faith than we could have ever done on our own. Not once in this experience did we feel betrayed, abandoned, confused, or angry. The “why” the doctors are looking for doesn’t bother us as much as most would expect. While I was pregnant I held my stomach each day and as I prayed for our growing baby I always included “I pray she would be healthy, but more than that that you would create her exactly as you want to for your purpose.” and God did just that. I don’t try to imagine what life would be like if Goldie grew up, or what kind of little girl she would have become because I believe that God had already written each and everyday of Goldie’s life. There is no 10 year old Goldie that ever would have existed to imagine in our family, there only ever was 10 day old Goldie. She came to us briefly, changed lives, and filled her full purpose on earth.
We will forever miss and ache for our baby Goldie. She will always feel like our child and the 4th member of our family. Thinking about transitioning back to normal life is really hard for us. We don’t want to feel like all the little details about Goldie and this special time are being left behind or forgotten. When people ask how many kids we have we don’t want to have to respond “1”. But, thankful doesn’t even begin to describe how much we appreciate the experience of both her time on earth and all the unknown experiences this will lead to in our lives.
A film generously created by M&Him http://mandhim.com/ documenting the time spent in the NICU with our sweet baby Goldie.
Read the story of Goldie’s life here http://bethanymenzel.com/blog/2015/7/14/welcome-goldie-bloom-menzel
Thank you so much to the talented & generous M&Him Photography for capturing this special time for our family in the NICU, having these memories means so much to us.
We also want to deeply thank everyone in this supportive online community for your prayers and love through this entire journey. Even though we haven’t taken a lot of time to respond we read and appreciate your comments & emails, xo.