by Virginia Forste
A Short, Precious Life
Stephanie Santel and her husband began attending Christ’s Church in 2016 while they were still dating. Not long after marrying in the chapel in 2017, she discovered she was pregnant with twins. While working as a labor and delivery nurse, she found out that Baby 2 had a growth restriction and blood flow issues. She was put on bed rest at 25 weeks. She had a C-section at 31 weeks and 4 days. Her twins, Hudson Jacob and Reid Lucas, were born at 3+ lbs. and 2+ lbs. respectively and were doing well. Nine days later doctors discovered Reid had developed an intestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. His health spiraled downhill quickly and he was deemed unfit for surgery. Reid then developed sepsis and he passed into the arms of Jesus while in the literal arms of his parents that evening.
Four days later his brother Hudson also developed the infection. Although he struggled to recover from multiple complications such as a PICC infiltration (medication from the intravenous administration leaking into surrounding tissue) and pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs), he was finally released after two months in the NICU.
After Reid passed away, Stephanie and her husband moved in with her parents for support. Their home was far from the church building so they stopped attending. About seven months ago they began attending Christ’s Church again after a move back to the area.
Stephanie began chatting with Shannon Foote while Shannon was greeting on Sundays. Stephanie describes Shannon as “warm, welcoming, and sweet.” Shannon introduced Stephanie to a few other moms and she became involved in the moms’ group among other activities at the church. Stephanie is very thankful for the community that has embraced her at Christ’s Church. It has helped her in her own healing and she has been able to encourage others with her own story.
Stephanie shares, “Hudson is now two years old. I am so thankful that God healed him. It’s been so unbelievably painful losing Reid and raising his identical twin brother without him. Being able to share my experience and be vulnerable to a bunch of trusting women in a Christ-centered atmosphere has been extremely helpful for me in this healing process. Having the support of people who care and will pray for me and my family is so wonderful. Also, hearing from others who have their own difficult struggles and stories makes me feel not so alone in my own trials.”
Another part of Stephanie’s healing has come through participating with an organization called Butterfly Ascension. The group allows each parent or family who has lost a baby to say that child’s name aloud at a ceremony before the group releases butterflies to honor those babies. This year Stephanie spoke at the ceremony which was very difficult but also very important to her. She says, “My prayer has been that God would provide opportunities for me to share my story in hopes that I could help someone else experiencing something similar. I desire to bring hope to someone who doesn’t know Jesus. I’ve prayed for God to use me and give me purpose in this pain.”
Although Stephanie has endured such a traumatic loss, she does offer some words of hope: “Losing a child is not natural and one of the most painful—if not the most painful—things a person can experience. Give yourself grace to feel whatever it is you may be feeling . . . confused, lost, hopeless, fearful, guilty, angry—even angry with God. He can handle it all. Take it to him. Grief is a lifelong journey although it changes over time (so I’m told, I’m only two years out from this).” Stephanie continues, “Allow others to be there for you and don’t try to do it alone. At the same time, you can give yourself permission to smile, laugh, and be happy again. It is possible to simultaneously experience sorrow and joy. Most of all, hold onto God’s promise that he will one day wipe away our tears and there will be no more death and pain—and we can have the opportunity to be with our loved ones again because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. He is our hope. There IS hope, even in the most devastating circumstances.”
In July of this year Stephanie and her husband welcomed their third child, Jude.
You can find Butterfly Ascension and a video of Stephanie sharing her story on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/butterflyascension/
If you are dealing with any type of loss, we offer Grief Recovery services at Christ’s Church. We also have a moms’ group that meets every Wednesday during the school year. It’s a great way to get and stay connected.
In Matthew West’s song, “Power Love Sound Mind,” he sings, “Everybody, everybody got their own impossible to climb . . .” Most people around you are wearing nice-looking facades. We all struggle with something or our own “impossible” at some time in our lives. If you’re struggling with something that seems impossible to bear, find a place to share your pain. If you are currently on solid ground, be vulnerable and create a space for others to open up to you. You don’t have to share your life story; simply invite someone in your life and listen.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, NLT).
Virginia Forste is a former elementary education teacher and stay-at-home mom who frequently blogs with other moms at textingthetruth.com.