It is here that you will find why Tender Mercies Foundation was born. It all comes together in the experiences of three long time friends, each unknowing of what was to come. As once defined by David A Bednar, tender mercies of the Lord are very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. These next stories are very different, yet still similar in such a way that helped to forge this foundation and the purpose it serves today. All now understood as truly being tender mercies of the Lord.
We will begin with Kasey. The day that changed her life forever.
April 1, 2003 she found out the best news of her life. She was having twins, but not just twins, identical twin girls. She began to dream of their matching clothes, their painted toes, and the bows she’d lovingly place in their beautiful hair. She imagined how pink was going to just flow like water through her house. She couldn’t wait. Her husband, still in shock yet so excited. Daddy’s girls were coming, like every daddy dreams of. Yet he was getting two at once. As the days grew closer she started having more pain pushing in her side. Not worrying to much thinking it was just her body growing and her belly stretching. When she went to her next doctor visit to do another scan they realized something was wrong with the girls. The had TTS twin twin transfusion. Her daughter Ellianna was giving her nutrients (donor twin Baby B) to her sister Hallie (recipient twin Baby A) which was causing Hallie’s organs to work extra hard. Leaving Ellianna to not get the nutrients that she needed either. She was so scared. In that moment she felt her heart sink. That deep, breathtaking weighted feeling. The doctor told her that they needed to go to St Louis to see a doctor that specializes in TTS. So that following Monday that is what they did. Heading to St. Louis they hadn’t slept in days praying that this doctor would have some answers. The doctor requested that they have an ultrasound first so they did. They saw their girls playing, kicking and interacting with each other inside of her. So full of life. Then, the doctor took them into a conference room and told Kasey she was going to have to choose. He wrote on a white board “baby A” and “baby B”. He marked out baby B and said we can’t focus on her anymore. She thought to herself that she isn’t “baby B” as the doctor keeps calling her; she is Ellianna. What did he mean we can only focus on “baby A” . What about Ellianna? Why can’t we focus on her? She wanted them both. She was screaming inside, I love them both! I am not choosing. She already had dreams for them. Wondered if they would have her eyes or their daddy’s curls. She thought about how fun their first birthday was going to be and how they were going to match on their first day of school. How close they were going to be. How expensive it was going to be when they turned sixteen. Their weddings and their life. Now he wanted her to choose? She couldn’t. She wouldn’t. She had to leave that up to God. Then he continued tell about two other possible procedures. One being where they would stick a needle in her stomach and take out some of the amniotic fluid in hopes that it could give her girls some time, or two he could try to send her to Florida where a new procedure was being done to cut the blood vessel inside the placenta so the girls would no longer be sharing the nutrients. But he cautioned and said it was experimental and the outcome could induce early labor which also brinks the risk of losing one or both girls. So they opted for choice one to take amniotic fluid out. They then went into exam room and the nurse came in. It was that exam when they realized she had already dilated to 3 cm and was in labor. Then her water broke. Just doing everything they could to try to keep from labor was now their major concern! She was put on high dose magnesium sulfate. Her husband at her side, they learned that they were about to have the fight of their life’s. Every day was a roller coaster. She would have rode it out forever if it meant she could take home her girls. On day 4, she woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t breath. Her mom was there because it was the first night her husband went home. Doctors and nurses rushed in and put her on oxygen and meds. The magnesium was too much for her body and she got pulmonary edema. The doctor thought she had a pulmonary embolism ( blood clot in the lung). Miserable on all drugs and on oxygen to breathe, it was then they told her they could no longer focus on her babies. They had to focus on her. Her heart sank, again. As a mom she had lived and didn’t care about her life. She already loved them and they deserved their chance but the doctors had their priorities. Her girls were on around the clock fetal monitoring and their heartbeats were a soft lullabye to her ears. The next day they decided to send her down for an X-ray of her lungs to rule out the pulmonary embolism. When she came back up and put the fetal monitoring back on, she only heard one heart beat. Her Hallie had passed. Her heart sank deeper yet. She was so mad. It was suppose to be different. She had people praying; friends and family by her bed. Her pastor came and hadn’t left praying for her girls. She is a Christian and her daughter dies? She wanted her babies, both of them. The doctor came in and gave her an ultrasound and a picture of Ellianna. She knew at that moment that no matter what, she was not bringing home both of her girls. Angry, crushed, defeated and broken inside, her God continued to strengthen her and brought her husband and her together through one of his many tender mercies. She continued to pray until she gave birth, that fateful day on July 26, 2003, to her precious little girls. Hallie asleep in her arms and Ellianna they held her in their arms for the last hour and 35 minutes of her life. They were blessed that day. Their life was so full of purpose. In the short time they were here they changed her and showed her what the true important things in life are. She will hold her girls in her heart forever. And now, dream about the day she will hold them in Heaven.
Not without a different ending or any less sorrow, the story of Lauren and Kelton give us a lesson in support, guidance and strength. It was what seemed like an ordinary day that Lauren was caring for her three girls when that motherly instinct said something didn’t seem right with her 21.5 week pregnancy. Uneasy in that feeling, Lauren contacted her doctor to inform them and asked to be seen as soon as possible. That was a doctors visit that would never be forgotten. It was the visit all mothers fear during pregnancy. Her child was gone; a heartbeat couldn’t be found. Her belly was still showing, the nursery was still being planned and the hopes for a boy to live amongst their three girls was still high. What do they mean “the baby is gone”? Sent home and asked to return the following morning to begin the process of labor and delivery, there started calls to friends and family advising of the loss. It seemed like a sleepless night that would last forever but Lauren and her husband showed up like the doctor had asked, was placed in a hospital room and the process began. A lot of ultrasounds, a lot of questions, and a lot of confusion began to set it. They didn’t want to know what the sex of the baby was for this pregnancy but it was said in all the ultrasounds that they were set to deliver another girl. Although not meant to be misconstrued as it might be taken, the thought arose that ‘at least they weren’t losing the boy they had so hoped for’. As the night progressed, so did the labor. It went well into the night with close family and friends by her side. The questions kept coming in. Do you want to see it? Do you have a name? Do you want pictures? Are you going to bury it? If one hasn’t even had time to come to the understanding of what is about to happen, how are they expected to prepare to answer such big questions? Lauren answered the best she could but a lot of the answers were just “I don’t know” for the time being. It was 9:16 am on a Friday morning when Lauren was finally able to meet her son. That baby girl wasn’t a girl at all. Kelton never did take a breath on earth but he was held long and loved deeply by many. He was placed in a gown made by such caring hands, wrapped in a baby blanket and snuggled into the arms of his mother. Maybe from heaven, in the arms of God, he was able to see the photo shoot he had so that he could rightfully take his place in the family photo album. Maybe it was there he was able to watch as his parents, with family and close friends by their side, said goodbye with a funeral and a release of baby blue balloons into the tender blue sky by each of his sisters. Kelton Jade Martin never knew this world, but this world will know Kelton Jade Martin.
Unlike Kasey’s story of infant loss or Lauren’s story of pregnancy loss, Autumn’s story was not a story of unexpected loss. It is a story of choice. A story of ignorance. A story of regret. When we are in our teens we often think we are adults and are capable of making adult decisions. That includes decisions that affect not only ourselves but, as in this case, the innocent. At a young age Autumn found herself in a situation she was not prepared for but knew it was a result of her selfish decisions. She was pregnant. She was expecting a baby by a man she had no intentions on continuing a relationship with and didn’t see that having this baby would be a good idea. Not knowing just what a precious gift children are, Autumn set an appointment to have an abortion two hours from home where she could hide the decision she was making if wanted. She knew that she was going in to this clinic to remove “the situation” and somewhere deep down she knew it was wrong, but there wasn’t anything or anyone telling her what it was she was really about to do. There was never a talk had or any education on it. Walking into the clinic she vividly remembers a protestor shouting “Don’t do it. I did, and I regret it”. She remembers the clinic asking her if she even wanted to watch the video that she took was mandated but not really pushed by any means. She declined. She got on the exam table, and as if she was taking part in an annual exam, the next thing she hears is “you are done”. Nothing more was said; releases were signed. Life was normal again. Or so she thought. Moving through the years she found herself thinking of her child and questioning the decision she made. She married, had two more children and loved them with her every being. Still, her mind continued back to that one day. The day she chose to have her first child killed. She watched her children grow, wondering what her first child would have been. She told only a couple friends as the years passed as if time made it better. It didn’t. She felt embarassment, regret, unworthy of the blessings God had been giving her. She sought forgiveness in God. She asked for him to remove this ache she had created in her life. She held on to this uneasy feeling that she could make such a decision. She suffered internally. Then, on November 14, 2014, things began to change. Being present in Kelton’s story, during such a sad time in Lauren’s life, Autumn made the emotional connection she needed to move forward in dealing with her loss. She held him and touched his tiny feet. She kissed his tiny cheek. She realized looking around at all the sad faces the true magnitude of what she had actually done over ten years prior. She looked at Kelton, then at Lauren. Lauren didn’t ask for this. She didn’t ask for her child to meet God so soon. She had desperately wanted him. Wanted this child. Autumn didn’t. She asked that her child, so innocent, be sent to God at the hands of man. She asked for this death. It broke her. Holding this precious child so wanted, yet gone. It broke her hard. That was the bottom. That is just where God needed her. Where he brought her. He brought her to this tender mercy to unite her with friends, helping others. Education. Emotional connection. Purpose. Autumn’s decision was selfish but God does not intend for that to remain. God was giving her experience purpose.
Tender Mercies Foundation comes full circle in these stories. With Lauren’s pregnancy loss, Kasey’s infant loss and Autumn’s loss in abortion, Tender Mercies Foundation will be a light for others. It will honor God in the name of their heavenly souls. It will make a difference.