This week’s feature is from a friend of mine, Waynna LeBrija, a SoCal mama maker and blogger at All Graced Up where she writes faith-based content to the everyday, busy mama about staying present over perfect. She also designs awesome T-shirts with her hubby, and you can shop them here! Their message through their tees is to spread hope and awareness about the abundant love that God has for us despite our imperfections. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to read more about their “why” behind their designs, and to snag one for yourself! She is sharing her story on losing her first child to Trisomy 18 (who would be 8 years old today) and how she found grace, hope, and resilience through loss.
Favorite thing to cook: “I like to cook, but I LOVE to bake. Baking is almost a form of self-therapy for me in a sense that as each ingredient gets added to the mixing bowl and then combined with the others, I can feel the stressors of life fall to the floor. Not to mention the dopamine that drops once the sugar hits my bloodstream! My favorite thing to bake is blueberry cake, I love coffee and they pair perfectly.”
Book I’m reading now: “Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. This book makes me feel SO good. This book reminds me to pick my head up, to keep going and to hold onto hope that only comes from above. I highly encourage everyone to get encouraged, stay encouraged and to live an encouraged life! Life is hard, but remembering we have purpose is an extremely important part of survival. Books, podcasts and blogs (like The Mini Apartment Blog), help me to do just that!”
Favorite fast food: “Panda Express! It must be the smell, or the fact that I never let myself have it! I usually order all white rice with orange chicken and beef broccoli. My mouth is salivating as I type this, it’s just so good!! My kids won’t eat it with me and my husband doesn’t LOVE it, but they do love the fortune cookies.”
Thank you Waynna for being a part of our Real-Girls: Mothers community! Finding magic in the midst of motherhood + marriage is something we are all doing, together. Read below for Waynna’s post on experiencing infant loss, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway we’re hosting on Instagram together for a His + Hers shirt set from her shop !
“As early as I can remember I wanted to be a mama. When I was a little girl, I remember thinking about how wonderful of a job it must be: to be able to care for someone and experience life with your mini-me, what fun! It would be about twenty years later when I would experience this joy through pregnancy, and it was an absolute dream come true.
Fairly new to marriage, careers, and basically new to life, I was a little nervous about this new mama role. Okay, I was terrified. It was way sooner than we’d planned for a baby. The timing meant I’d have to immediately go back to an extremely demanding job, I was also in my 5th year of my college career, and I had no clue about what taking care of a tiny babe would entail. Motherhood, though desired, came to meet me in all of the real fears, exciting emotions and list of uncertainties at this point in my life.
Facebook was getting big around this time and I had re-connected with a lot of people from high school. It seemed as though EVERYONE was having babies too! The first image that would load after logging into Facebook would be of a new babe, wrapped in hospital gear, being held by their new and smitten mama. Seeing these images was both reassuring and made me a little uneasy. I immediately found myself comparing to everyone I saw who had babies and posted about them on Facebook. I began to feel a little embarrassed about the tiny apartment we would be bringing our new babe home to and the old Corolla we’d have to buckle her seat into. All of these things I thought I cared about, I’d quickly learn, wouldn’t matter. Any excitement I was feeling towards this pregnancy was immediately being eaten up by the comparison of what I ‘thought’ my life should look like as a new mom.
Of course I only saw the mamas who looked like they had it all. I hadn’t noticed the moms unable to have babes, mamas of babes with disabilities, or mamas going through divorce, mamas forced to give up their babes, mamas unable to care for their babes, and mamas who faced with infant loss or miscarriage. But I see you now. And please know this, The Lord sees you too (Luke 12:7).
It’s important to consider these moms who’ve struggled because it tells me that though we might not share the same story, there are a lot of similarities in our experiences that connect us.
I believe we’ve all been gifted a story in the shape of our experiences to share with each other. To bring hope to other people facing similar situations to ours. Other people who need hope to be spoken into their lives, when all seems lost and broken. So I hope that the takeaway, from hearing my story, is to share yours too. Don’t let fear, like I have, cripple your ability to be vulnerable and offer hope to someone who really, truly needs it.
My motherhood story starts at around fifteen weeks gestation when I took a blood test to make sure both the baby & I were healthy. Work was extremely busy at this time. In fact, it seemed to pick up a little after I found out I was pregnant. I was so busy that when they were doing my blood tests I asked them if they could hurry up because I needed to make it back in time for the delivery guy at work. My focus was so displaced at this time in my life. Having a growing career, I felt hopeful for where it would take me and I didn’t want anything to interfere with that. That was then.
A few short days after getting my blood work done, I got a call from one of the nurses at the doctor’s office. Her voice was monotone, as if she’d been making calls like this one all day long. She explained that there was a chance something may be wrong with my pregnancy. Not knowing anything about what potential issues in pregnancy there could be (remember my life was revolving around my career and not much outside of it), I started to cry uncontrollably. It was in this moment I realized the impact that this pregnancy was having on my life. I quickly became aware of an attachment to this tiny babe that was growing inside of me. The innate needs to protect and comfort this babe were being interrupted by words like “possibly” and “routinely”. Although these words were non-threatening, they struck fear and confusion in my mama bear heart.
Shortly after the phone call, we’d been pushed into the schedule to meet with a genetic counselor. My husband met me there and the counselor immediately plagued us with questions about our family trees and family history. It quickly became clear these were things that neither of us knew anything about — we had guessed about miscarriages one of our grandmothers may have had. I mentioned one of my grandmothers had a baby who suffered from (what could have been?) SIDS and didn’t live past a year. We were forced to think about how birth history had possibly shaped the seats we were sitting on, in those moments, in that office.
We then entered a room with a bed and ultrasound machine. This would be my first one so my heart wanted to be excited but my head told me to refrain. The ultrasound tech began searching my belly. She had no words, just tsks. I asked her what she saw and her response was, “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait to see the Doctor.” I don’t remember much of what was said during those next weeks, but somehow her words still ring clear in my memory. It must have been the waiting process, the 20 minutes of the unknown, when I was forced to let go of control. Nothing I did at that moment in my life cold change what I was about to find out.
We went into another room, where we were soon greeted by the doctor and multiple nurses. He didn’t really offer small talk, instead immediately started scanning each photo that was taken by the ultrasound tech. He started rattling off a list of things that were “wrong” with our growing child, and once again, I was inconsolable. Uncontrollable sobs flooded the room. He ordered an amnio & left. The amnio was finished and we were sent off, blinded by our tears.
The consensus finally came back — she had full Trisomy 18 (confirmed by an amnio) and her chances at life past a year were slim to none. If I had ever experienced heart break in my life, this would be the icing on that cake. Pain, all I could feel was pain. Crying was painful and eating was non-existent. There was sorrow, there was mourning and there was grief. I was experiencing the loss of a child. Loss of such a brief quest into motherhood. I was about five months pregnant at the time and after the news, I felt like there was still a million years to go. So much overwhelming emotion flooded my heart, from not wanting to experience my pregnancy not one more day to wanting to be pregnant forever so I’d know she was okay within me. Even an hour or a day more would be too long to have to endure a growing babe in my belly whom I knew wouldn’t live. The torn feelings and desires I had were suffocating.
The doctor who we initially saw eventually called me and suggested we end the pregnancy. Thankfully, I also received a supportive call from my mom to continue it, and so I decided I would carry her to term. We were now soon to be parents of a babe who wouldn’t live to see her first birthday.
Everything about that pregnancy was completely out of my control and that was a hard pill for me to swallow. Working wouldn’t save me, buying stuff wouldn’t save me, my husband couldn’t save me. I felt alone and unsure of where to turn. I changed doctors and was greeted by a bear hug from my new doctor. He said it’d be hard, but we’d get through it. He saw me through my entire pregnancy and in hindsight that was an image of God’s embrace on my life during that time. It’s amazing how we can experience His love poured out through others.
My baby, whom we named Stella, beat the odds of possibly not making it to term and lived for a few short weeks after I gave birth to her. These weeks were tiring and full of prayer and hope. I will never regret the time we got to spend together; All of the twinkle twinkles I sang to her. The prayers of healing I breathed into her and all of the tears we cried together. Never will I regret the experience of her short life with us.
As much as my story sounds like a mother’s worst nightmare, I want to tell you how briefly getting to know my little girl has actually shaped my present moments:
> It’s taught me that we cannot control any aspect of our lives and that trusting in God, for me, is non-negotiable.
> It’s taught me that the hope God promises through scripture is constant and enduring if we let Him take our hands to guide us. It told me I can plan my course, but He establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9) before me.
> The Lord made sure I was never alone through the experience — I had family, community, doctors and nurses who all came along side me and showed me what it’s like to feel God’s love and his presence.
I remember laying down next to her tiny little body after she’d passed and feeling peace — peace in knowing that I would see her again one day. Peace in knowing her story wasn’t over and that it would shape my future and my priorities. This moment would forever remind me to always choose faith over fear, even in the midst of uncertainty. I am able to tell her siblings that that there was a tiny little babe named Stella Dee Grace gifted to me, to remind me to live life and trust God’s promises. Her life will always remind me that when I can’t let go of the little things, to keep trying because the Lord goes before me and gives me hope for the future. And her life has taught me that no story is alike, no baby is alike, no mama is alike and that comparison steals any bit of joy.
My tiny babe was here long enough to feel my love. I’ve since experienced hope through healing. Healing didn’t come in weeks or months, but years. Healing, for me, is a journey more than it is a destination.
All of the tears I cried for her have turned into joy and the sorrow has turned into an ever-present longing for my permanent home. Hebrews 12:16 talks about how this life on earth is only but a moment compared to the eternal life we will experience in Heaven. I long to be with my first baby, I long to care for her and to feel her love. Though those desires have not gone away, the pain in my heart has.
A couple years after Stella passed, I was gifted with a rainbow baby and then two more babes after that. I’m currently a mom of three, still learning hands-on how to be present with my littles and going through the same struggles that other mamas go through, such as learning to give myself grace and not fall into the comparison trap. Motherhood is consistently refining me and forcing me to rely on God’s grace, and trust that His promises are faithful. I hope my story allows you to learn that you are SO loved, mama. There is such hope for your future, no matter where you’re at in life or what you’ve gone through or lost. We are all in this together.”
About The Product: All Graced Up Tees
– grab yourself a tee for 20% off with the code ‘mini20’ –
“My husband screen prints the shirts & we both design them. It was a labor of love & kind of based around the idea that I wanted to covertly spread the message of hope, that I experienced, through healing when we lost our daughter. Also, I’m a really shy person and these tees are actually great ice breakers! I’m always running into other moms who start up a conversation with me wanting to know more about my ‘coffee cures + Jesus saves’ tee that I wear religiously. We make shirts for both men and women!
I’m a dreamer and my husband is a doer — so when I dreamt up the idea of these ‘hopeful’ tees, he helped me pull the trigger to get the shop live and running. The combination of comfort + positivity is non-negotiable when it comes to choosing our clothes for the day; we are completely hooked on our own product (I’m not even lying)! You’ll see us in these shirts on every occasion. It’s kind of the way our marriage has gone from the very start: he supports my dreams and makes them happen!
Most of the tees we design help support ministries & non-profits: One of the shirts helps support an evangelist that was on my husband’s podcast, “One Story.” Another shirt is helping my mom serve on missions in Peru. Another tee will help raise awareness and go towards finding a cure for Hydrocephalus (in honor of my friend who lost her 3-year-old little boy) — proceeds from that tee will go to the Hydrocephalus Association. Another tee is helping prepare Christmas ‘bags of hope’ for moms in a local women’s shelter.
I can’t change the world, but we can make and sell tees that spread amazing messages! I feel like it’s our tiny contribution of love to the need in this big ‘ol world.”