Thursday, May 16, 2019

Grace Changes Everything!

I am amazed how, when parents are in the depths of despair when facing the loss of a child, many are able to think about helping and saving other babies through organ donation.  It isn't always possible, but what a loving idea!  

Baby Olivia Grace was born just over two years ago to Dave and Holly Barnhart.  They had quite a nice support team to welcome her to the world . . . and bid her farewell.  As Olivia's sweet grandmother said, their hearts felt "full and empty at the same time."  We are happy to have this wonderful family with us at the 15th annual Running with Angels 5K on Saturday, May 18th, 2019.

Grace Changes Everything!
December 5, 2016 started out as a normal Monday. Dave and I were excited to find out the gender of our baby after we had experienced a devastating miscarriage exactly one year prior. We hadn’t told anyone we were expecting, not even our son Hunter who was 4 years old at the time. We thought it would be fun for him to go with us and find out not only that he was getting a sibling but also whether it was a boy or girl.

The tech called us back and as she began the ultrasound she was making small talk and asked if we had any guesses on the baby’s gender. She got real quiet and kept moving the monitor back and forth like she was looking for something. She said well I’m pretty sure it’s a girl but it’s kind of hard to see. Then after a few minutes she got up and excused herself and said she would be right back. I immediately began to get worried. I knew that wasn’t normal for her to leave the room. She finally came back several minutes later but it felt like an eternity. She continued the ultrasound for a few more minutes and then printed out a few pictures and handed them to me.

Normally after a gender ultrasound you go out to the waiting room and wait for your appointment to see the doctor, but instead she took us directly into an exam room. We didn’t have to wait more than a minute or so and he came in. He didn’t waste any time and told us our daughter had a birth defect called anencephaly. It’s where the baby’s brain & the top part of their head doesn’t develop. I was crushed. Actually crushed doesn’t do the way I felt justice. There are no words that exist that can adequately describe the feelings I felt that day. He told us he wanted to send us to a specialist to confirm what they found that day but that we shouldn’t get our hopes up because this is something that is almost never misdiagnosed.

On the way home that day we were talking and we decided that if there was no way our daughter could survive this, we wanted to donate her organs to save other babies.

Three days later we went to our appointment with the specialist where it was confirmed that she did indeed have anencephaly. We asked him about organ donation and we were told although that was a very generous gift that it wasn’t possible to donate. Even though most babies with anencephaly are perfectly healthy otherwise, you cannot declare them “brain dead” therefore you cannot donate their organs. We were heartbroken that we couldn’t help other babies who were facing life threatening illnesses. He told us we had the option the deliver early or we could continue to full term. For us there was no question. It wasn’t our decision to make when her time here was up. We wanted to continue the pregnancy to full term and allow her to live as long as she was supposed to.

The next 5 months were hard. There was a chance that her heart could stop beating at anytime and not knowing what to expect was difficult.

We made it to full term. On Sunday May 7, 2017 Olivia Grace Barnhart was born at 7:22 am weighing 4 pounds 12 ounces and 17.5 inches long. She never took a breath but her heart continued to beat for 10 minutes and I’m so grateful for everyone one of them. We had the most amazing nurses and we felt like we got VIP treatment. We were able to give her a bath and dress her in a cute outfit we brought for her. Both of our parents and Hunter came in first to meet her and then a few of our siblings were able to come as well. Heather Walker was so great. She got some really beautiful pictures and made the sweetest molds of her hands and feet. We will cherish them forever!
It was such a peaceful day and the room was so full of love for this little girl.

The time came that we knew we needed to let her go. We had a nurse call the funeral home to come pick her up. I will never forget the heart wrenching feeling I had as we watched him carry her out and drive away. I’m pretty sure a very large piece of my heart went with her that day. It was so difficult to leave that hospital room knowing we were going home empty handed.

The day of her graveside service was beautiful. Dave, Hunter, & I went to the funeral home together to spend some time with her. We drove her in the back of our car to the cemetery. I couldn’t stand the thought of her riding in the back of a car driven by the funeral director while we followed behind. We made the short drive through town to the baby section of the Lehi cemetery. So many of our family and friends came to support us. I remember turning to Dave as we pulled in and said WOW, there’s a lot of love here!

The service we planned was perfect. Dave dedicated her grave. It was the most beautiful blessing I’ve ever heard. It was perfect in every way and you could feel the love radiating from him. Afterwards Hunter got to lead the cousins in releasing pink balloons into the sky, sending them to Olivia in heaven. It was a very bitter sweet day and borrowing my mom’s words, “my heart was full and empty at the same time.” It was a beautiful day to celebrate a beautiful girl.

We knew early on she came here to receive her body and to serve a purpose. We decided we needed to give her a name that held a lot of meaning. Olivia means olive tree, which is representative of Christ’s atonement. We knew we would need to rely on that to help us through this difficult time. Her middle name is Grace meaning a gift from God. One night Dave and I came across a quote from then, President Uctdorf. He said “His Grace helps us become our best selves.” We truly feel like Olivia’s purpose here was to teach her parents that it is through His grace, and allowing us to be parents to such a perfect little person, that we can strive to become our best selves.

These last two years have been hard at times but it has taught us to love deeper, live life more fully, and that “Grace changes everything”!

I’m so grateful this little one chose me to be her mom and that families are forever. This is without a doubt the hardest most heart wrenching trial I have ever had to face, but I know I will see her again. I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ, and I am thankful for the grace I am extended every day to try again to be my best self.

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