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Honoring Our Eli

By CeCe and Larry Garrett

One Thursday night in June, I placed our two year old in her bed, kissed her forehead and settled in for a much needed slumber next to my husband, Larry. Life was good. Our family would be welcoming a new member in late November and my belly was getting round.

       Just a little over a year ago, we packed up our house, the kids and my mom (who needs full time care due to stroke) and replanted in a small town in Ohio in order for Larry to go to seminary and follow his lifelong dream of becoming a pastor. We deliberated on names for our new baby for weeks and despite Larry’s love for New Testament Greek names like Mathias, we had finally agreed on two: Lily Claire or Eli Owen. Our little sweet pea was busy swimming around and causing great fits of giggles from me while we read books to our toddler about welcoming siblings earlier that afternoon. Life was so very good.

Early Friday morning a frighteningly familiar sense came over me and I awoke. A clear feeling or message, if you will, letting me know that life was about to change. The last time I had felt this was the day Mom had her stroke. I jumped from my bed and went to check on her. My mother was sound asleep and doing just fine. Our Twelve year old was fine. Toddler and Larry: fine. That’s when I knew. I waited until daybreak all the while praying. I prayed well-formed thoughts that morning. It would be the last time in a long time that words came when I opened my heart to God.

Several hours later, I remember three nurses trying to find a heartbeat, two different Doppler machines and then the ultrasound tech. There was such silence. Our Eli was clearly shown on the screen in black and white. Perfect. Still. Gone. Life had changed.

After talking with our families and loved ones, I was admitted to the hospital for induction of labor. For six days, I labored and it was decided that I wasn’t able to deliver. My body would simply not let go. Our OB was not trained for the surgical procedure needed to remove our baby, called a D&E, at our late gestation so they sent me to a “specialist” in Columbus, OH. It didn’t take long to realize that did doctor’s specialization was not tailored to women who have suffered the loss of a baby. This clinic was primarily used to perform early and late abortions.

I cannot begin to tell you the stinging welt I felt watching these women waiting with me. My hand went over my belly as if to protect our little one… I quickly reminded myself that there was no use. Our baby was gone. I sat silently as others laughed and had small talk. One couple was actually planning a Hawaiian vacation. Resentful isn’t even the word to describe the raw pain and condemnation I felt when I looked at these women. Could God really love them as much as He loves me?

The nurse called us back to meet the doctor who would perform the D&E. The doctor explained what would happen the next day while he inserted long  sticks made of seaweed into my cervix. These sticks, called laminaria, are used to open the cervix over a period of a day so that the surgery can be done. We were told that husbands were not permitted past the waiting room on “surgery days” and I would be ready for “pick up” at noon. We would have to be there at 7:30AM to insure our spot.

I feel the need now to tell you that I have always considered myself pro-life. And, like most of you, would nod in agreement when priests and pastors spoke on such topics. I saw the abortion issue as one of the many battlefronts that we, in this day and age of spiritual warfare, have to contend with. What I am about to share with you is a firsthand account of my day, one that I can only compare to walking into the belly of the beast. I must warn you that what you are going to read from here on will upset and offend… and I hope educate.

Larry brought me to the doctor’s office at 7:30 AM on the dot and sat with me as long as he could. We had no one to watch our children and I really didn’t want them to be there. I sent Larry off to amuse the kids while I waited to be called back. The office was very busy for “surgery” day and the lighthearted small talk familiar to the day before had made its leave. There were 18 women waiting with me. Since companions were prohibited from joining patients, everyone waiting, waited alone. The receptionist was the first of many to tell me that I would be the only woman today who was there because of a “fetal demise,” a term I had grown to hate over the last week.

I noticed while waiting that I was the only woman stroking her belly. The irony burned and I felt a swell of anger that only God could hold. I had never really felt what hate must be until that morning. I remember asking God to unclench my spiritual fists just as the nurse called my name. Within seconds, I was ushered into an exam room, told to strip and lay on the table. At that point the nurse placed an IV in my arm and patted my forehead. She said “won’t be long, Hon. It’ll be all over.” Then, she strapped my legs down into the stirrups, basically rendering me helpless– impossible to move. My head was taped to the table and she left leaving the door open behind her.

I prayed. I prayed for Jesus to be there with me. I needed Him to hold my hand. I needed to not be alone with this suffocating darkness around me. I then heard it for the first time. A vacuum was so loud in the room down the hall that I actually jumped a bit and the tape on my head protested by pulling out some hair. Horrified, I tried to close my eyes and succeeded for a moment until the sound changed. I let out a scream, which sent the nurse running in. She asked if I was in pain and I told her the noise was scaring me. The nurse, well meaning, or perhaps, reaching out in hopes of opening my eyes to the horrors going on there explained that the change in sound was the doctor “catching the fetus.” She patted me on the head again and I asked her if it was ever really over. She left. The door was open wider this time.

A few minutes passed and I found myself no longer praying for Our Savior to be there with me. I prayed for Him to hold the 18 other hands. I needed Him to walk those 18 precious alive babies about to be killed, to their heavenly home. As the tears moistened the tape and matted my hair, I saw him. The curt doctor from yesterday was leaving the first room. He was wearing your normal green/blue scrubs and a white plastic butcher’s apron. The blood was so bright where his hands had wiped life off onto his protective plastic apron. My stomach still turns when I think back to this image. The doctor ripped off his latex gloves, threw them into a waste bin in the hall and went into the next room. When the vacuum started up again, I resumed praying. The kind of prayer where no words form, no sounds slip from mouths, just an internal kind of silent wail that may not be noticed by someone sitting next to you, but undoubtedly shakes the far corners of Heaven. I was all too aware that this had become my mode of opening up my heart to God lately, and that day, my wails were louder than ever before.

More gloves thrown, more blood on his apron and three more babies were gone and I started to try to move my legs. I wanted to run. There had to be another doctor who could do this procedure. I couldn’t get free. An overwhelming sense of panic blanketed me then I heard a voice from inside my heart. This voice only asked one question. “Can the others leave if they want to?” I started to vomit at the thought. The words came to my lips and I blurted the question out just as the nurse was cleaning my face off. She was quick to inform me that if these girls had no other options, they wouldn’t be there to begin with if they did. She said I had it easy, no choice to be made. At first, I wanted to punch the head-patting nurse right in the chin. It wasn’t until days later that her statement punched me right in the gut.

All in all, I heard eight abortions and saw the bloody doctor nine times. The last time, it was my turn. I drifted off to sleep, under general anesthesia, and awoke empty. Nineteen of us woke up in the same huge recovery room. Nineteen of us were keenly aware of how painfully empty we were. I held my belly and cried. I wanted my husband with me. When I asked for Larry, I was told he would be called back when I was stable. And I was also told that while I was out, I upset the nurse so much that she had to leave the room. I, in my deep sleep, recited the 23rd Psalm seventeen times. She couldn’t handle it and had to leave.

I grew up Catholic and as such, at that time, could not quote much of the Bible and in truth, I was learning the Bible for the first time with my son. It was amazing, learning what most of you all have known for years. And reading the Bible with my son for the first time was such an awesome experience to share. That being said, we had made it halfway through the Old Testament when we lost Eli. I was not as familiar with Psalms as I am today. God had been with me walking me and let everyone there know that He was present.

Eight days after the day I walked through hell… I developed a life threatening blood clot and spent several days in the hospital. Those days were spent in quiet time with God. I would have to write an entire book to fully explain those days of solitude with just me and Our Daddy. I came home knowing a couple of awesome things… I haven’t walked on my own two feet for years, I can fully praise my Jesus while feeling unbelievable grief AND I don’t know how, or when or in what form… but I know that Eli’s tiny lifespan has changed us as a family and will impact someone else in a very mighty way. Our tiny baby boy had weight, he had a purpose and he has a Mommy, Daddy Brother and Sister that miss him every day. Does Jesus love those women as much as me? Yes. Is there a chance for redemption? Yes! Could those women and the women who have come to that crossroads later have made a better choice? Certainly. I pray for those women from the clinic… and I pray for each of you reading.. I may not know your name or your faces… but I know how blessed I am by each of you. Thank you for considering Life. Thank you for hearing our story and honoring our baby Eli.

           As a pro life wife of a pastor... walking into an abortion clinic was an experience I cannot forget. My story is on my blog...

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