A Journey of Faith

It was my twenty-first birthday. Twenty-first birthdays are to be celebrated with much joy and zest for life. Mine was different. Of course, my family tried to make the day as special as they could considering the circumstances. As I sat trying to enjoy lunch at the very expensive restaurant that my father graciously took us to, all I could think about was the precious life growing inside of me. During my twenty-first year of life, I was being tasked by my heavenly Father to carry something beautifully, wonderfully, life-changing and gut-wrenchingly painful. The task of bringing Faith Isabella into this world, caring for her in a short but sweet life on this earth, and releasing her into the safe arms of God.

My pregnancy began normally, but as routine testing came back with concerns, we were referred to a perinatologist for additional testing. They confirmed that we were having a girl! I had always wanted a daughter, as I am the girliest of girls and could not wait to share in all of the mommy-daughter memories. He noted that he saw some issues with her head shape, growth, and hands, which he referred to as soft markers for a genetic condition called Trisomy 18. He encouraged us to do one more test to give a final result and we decided to go ahead with the test. Then came the waiting. Agonizing waiting.

When we finally got the call, we figured they would just tell us the results over the phone, but they asked us to come in. That’s never a good sign. I can remember this day so vividly. The color of the sky. Eating breakfast in the car because we arrived too early. The arrangement of the chairs in the office. Looking at a magazine as I sat sitting in the waiting room. Waiting to be called. The genetic counselor running late because of traffic on the freeway. Her poor choice of words as she walked in rumpled and out of breath as we sat dry-mouthed and sweaty-palmed. “It’s never good to be late on a day like today.” That’s it. It’s confirmed. Trisomy 18. She sat down and I began to cry.

She said something but I wasn’t listening. I then heard, “You have two options.” My husband interrupted her firmly and said, “We have one option. We will be keeping our daughter.” Then I just got up and left. I wanted nothing more to do with the coldness and harshness of that place.

Trisomy 18 is incompatible with life—60% of babies die in utero. Of the 40% that make it to full term, 90% of them die before the age of 1 and the average lifespan is three days. Three days. Is that all I will get with my baby girl? Will I even see her alive? If she lives longer, what will her complications be? The unknown was terrifying.

I began journaling my thoughts and prayers as a way to cry out to the Lord for help. Sometimes it was all I could do to make it through another day. By God’s grace my pregnancy progressed normally and I made it to 37 weeks. At this visit my OB noticed that my baby was not getting enough blood flow and so he sent us home to pray over what decision to make in her birth process.

A normal delivery would be easier on me and spare me from possible future complications, but he did not think that she was strong enough to survive that type of delivery. A C-section was quicker, and could deliver her more safely and quickly, but it was major surgery and could even affect our future family. Neither option was a guarantee that she would be born alive.

We were so thankful for the wisdom and care of a loving, godly doctor We prayed and talked and my mother’s heart just knew that I could not leave her in my womb knowing she was deteriorating. She was my child and we would do whatever it took to deliver her. Even if that meant one minute or no minutes with her. So, we prepared for a C-section. I wrote Psalm 23 on notecards to recite to myself as they prepped for surgery. I remember it like it was yesterday, holding those cards, cold, my hands and body shaking, the nurse tenderly helping me as I received my spinal tap. So scared, yet trusting that the Lord was holding me and Faith safely in His grasp.

On June 2, 2005, Faith Isabella Townsley was born. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm, Southern California day. John said, “She’s crying, can you hear her crying?!” It was the tiniest little cry. It sounded like a kitten. So weak and so sweet. But she was alive and she was breathing! All 3 lbs, 1.9 oz. of her tiny, frail frame was fighting! Sweet relief.

The next few days were a blur. Family and friends visiting, a myriad of tests, learning how to care for her, and recovering from surgery. Some of the nurses didn’t quite know how to handle our joy. They would pull my parents aside and ask them if we understood the gravity of the situation. It was a way for us to explain that YES! We did! We were just so grateful and thankful for this time with her. Our friends were sharing in that joy with us! My room was filled with flowers and gifts and visitors. They didn’t quite understand but it was a way for us to share Christ with them through our hope even through the shadow of death. After a week in the hospital, we were going HOME!

We purposed to live a normal life with Faith for as long as the Lord allowed for us to have her on this earth. So, we played with her and dressed her up and took her to church and weddings and on trips and took pictures—all the normal things that parents do with their babies. She even went to a tea party with me! I knew that each day might be her last and that was scary. Living with that wasn’t easy. There were many dark days and darker nights.

But God. He was so faithful to grow me and give me just enough grace for each day. Everywhere we went we had the opportunity to share our story. We were often met with questions and stares as she was the size of a living baby doll! At times this was incredibly difficult, and I just wanted a “normal” experience with a newborn baby. We were stopped once inside a Costco by a very inquisitive woman, and she boldly asked us if the hospital let us take her home! My first thought was one of sarcasm and I wanted to respond with “No, we stole her! Be sure to look for us tonight on America’s Most Wanted.” However, the Holy Spirit graciously took a hold of my words and I was able to kindly and calmly respond that, yes, they did let us take her home. Shockingly, she asked if Faith would be okay, would she live. Her brazenness was beyond my understanding. It hurt. I kindly but firmly said, “No, she would not be okay,” and then I had to walk away before I broke down. I felt robbed. Robbed of the simple joy of taking my daughter out to the grocery store. The gawking eyes. The prying questions. Total strangers digging up pain when we were trying to enjoy a lovely day with our daughter. Every day, one day closer to her last.

Many of my days were filled with medical and therapy appointments. Trisomy 18 causes severe mental retardation and physical deformities, including heart and other major internal organ abnormalities. Surprisingly, Faith never suffered any of the dire issues that usually are the cause of death in these babies. She did have a small pin hole in her heart which began to close on its own. She also had a twisted bowel, which she underwent surgery to correct in October 2005, and did exceedingly well! However, she could not do many of the basic things newborn babies can do. She was fed through a nasal gastric tube, which later became a gastrostomy tube, which was placed during her bowel correction surgery.

She did not have the ability to smile or laugh or roll over. She was my perpetual newborn! Feeding time was sometimes very stressful. Faith and her daddy had this special bond. She loved him more than anyone. He could calm like no other could. All she had to do was hear his voice and she would quiet down immediately. I remember one afternoon she had pulled out her tube and it happened to be right around feeding time. She was screaming and I was frantically trying to gently thread the tubing down her throat. I tried and tried but could not get it all the way down to her tummy. I called John and he came to the rescue! He sweetly took her in his arms and at the soothing sound of his voice she stopped panicking. He was able to thread the tube and I was finally able to feed her. Daddy, our hero! Their bond was unforgettable and I will always treasure those precious memories.

The darkest valleys were walking through the whys. I was definitely learning to trust Him more through this path. I’ve never prayed more. I remember believing with my whole heart that the Lord could heal her if that was His will. Here is one of the many prayers that I wrote while crying out to Him with fear and love for my unborn baby. We had not decided on her name yet and this prayer seems a fitting foreshadowing of how the Lord would form her name in our hearts. “Oh Lord, help John and I to be strong! Help us to glorify You in our attitudes and actions. May we be a light to those unsaved around us. Help us to have faith and peace, knowing that You are in control. Grant us wisdom. Lord, I pray that this cup might pass from us. Be gracious and merciful unto us. Oh, Father God, give us our baby to live and thrive. May her life be long and glorifying unto You. Your will be done.” Going through something like this at the tender age of 21 really shaped who I am today, and I am thankful for every minute of it.

Through it all, we enjoyed celebrating as many of the holidays we had with her including Thanksgiving and Christmas. We also had her announce to our friends and family that she was going to be a big sister in the spring of 2006! It was such a mix of emotions for me. On New Year’s Eve, we decided to travel to John’s family to celebrate the holidays with them. She had been fighting a cold but was doing well. I noticed that evening that her coloring seemed a bit off but just attributed it to the lighting of the store. Looking back, I know that was God’s providential hand. In the early morning hours of January 1, 2006, we awoke to find our precious baby Faith perfectly at peace and resting in the arms of her Savior. We had the blessing of caring for her in this life just one day shy of seven months.

The day I dreaded for so long had finally come. Instead of the gripping fear that I had imagined, there was overwhelming peace. The words I was saying were not my words. The decisions I was making were not my decisions, and how I was carrying them out were not by me. The Holy Spirit was guiding me in every breath I was taking. I can vividly recall every detail like I was watching a movie in slow motion with an epic score playing in the background. Serene. Surreal. When the Lord says His grace is sufficient, this is what He means. He will sustain when you most need it. Moment by moment. Breath by breath.

The most painful memory I have was saying our final goodbye. When I had to release her from the protection of my warm arms over to a stranger. I knew at that moment I would never hold her again. I would never get to smell her sweet head or kiss her soft cheek. This was final. Nothing can prepare you for it. Picking out a casket. We chose pink. Deciding what to bury her in. A cream-colored dress with a delicate fur collar, cream tights, and satin shoes with a sweet bow on her head. At the cemetery, we laid her to rest in the peaceful baby garden, by a brook. I’ve often thought how glorious it will be when the Lord returns and all of those precious children fly to meet the Lord in the air! What a joyful day that will be!

In the days and months after Faith’s passing, I had many deep waters to wade through, and many joys to celebrate. Wrestling with the fear and guilt of being pregnant while losing another child was a daily battle. I wanted my son, but I struggled with wanting my daughter more. How could I love him and still love her? Why couldn’t the Lord have allowed her to stay? I wanted her back. I wanted her with me. I wanted him too. At times the pain and joy were so intertwined that I didn’t know where one began and the other one ended. But once again the Lord loved me through it all and gave grace and kindness when I needed it most.

Since the Lord has taken Faith home, our family has continued to grow. The Lord blessed us with five handsome sons, whom we affectionately refer to as the Boybarians—Owen, Asher, Knox, Reichen, and Paxton. Though we have loved and enjoyed our sons more than anything, I once again wondered if I would ever have a daughter to hold in my arms. After many, many years of praying and many, many sons, the Lord kindly blessed with us a Valentine’s Day gift, our daughter, Aria Felicity Hope. Her name has so much meaning for us. Before we knew of Faith’s condition, we had planned on naming her Aria. One day while driving down the 5 Freeway in Los Angeles, John said “I just don’t think that name fits her.” I agreed and wondered what we could name her. He quickly said, “What about Faith?” Faith. It was perfect. When we found out we were having another daughter, we instantly knew we would use Aria and that her name had been saved just for her. Felicity means happiness and we have had much happiness with, and much hope for, both of our daughters. Hope for their salvation and their souls to be eternally with Christ forever. The Lord has answered our prayers in a different way than we ever imagined, but His ways are always good, and we will continue to set our joy and hope in the One who can do all things for the glory of Himself.

Although Faith’s journey on this earth has come to an end, we still hear of those whom her life has touched. Those who we shared the gospel of Christ with because of her tender life. Other moms who I have been connected with, whose children also had or have Trisomy 18. Her life had purpose. Her life had meaning. God was glorified in and through her. Though the journey was painful and there were days I felt would be my last, I have lived and understand so deeply what Paul said to the Philippians to be true. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8–11). I am beyond grateful the Lord chose us to walk this path. May we never lose sight of the One who holds us fast on this Journey of Faith.

Hope & Helps

Scripture we clung to on the hardest days/nights:

Lamentations 3:22–23

Helpful things people did to minister to us:

  • Brought meals.
  • Brought groceries.
  • Made items in remembrance of Faith: paintings, blankets, candles, shadow boxes, etc.
  • Remember her birthday and always send a text or card—even after 15 years.

What you should NOT say to someone in a similar circumstance:

  • “Let me know if you need anything.” I couldn’t even comprehend what I needed and even if I did, I wouldn’t have wanted to ask. Just bring dinner, give a grocery or restaurant gift card, send money anonymously. Don’t ask, just do. Just anticipate the needs and meet them. That will be a huge blessing.
  • “Are you okay?” The short answer is no, we aren’t okay. It’s hard and it’s painful. We aren’t just going to bounce right back. We know that you want us to heal and feel better and that you are just concerned for our hurting hearts. But asking that question puts so much pressure on us to have the response that people think Christians are “supposed” to have. The Bible says that there is a time for mourning. That Jesus wept when Lazarus died, even though He knew He was going to raise him from the dead! Let us mourn. Mourn with us! Weep with us! Sit in the ash heap with us.
  • “Why haven’t I heard from you?” Feel free to text or call, but do not be offended if you don’t get a response. There were days when I wanted and needed people and there were days when I just didn’t have the strength. BUT, don’t just stop. Grief is a long, hard process. There will be many hills and valleys they must walk through. The friendship may be one-sided for a while. Understand that and just be patient. We were thankful for every encouragement sent. Continue to pursue and love through the grief.
  • “This is the Lord’s will. Maybe this is better.” We know this was His will. Everything the Lord does is for our good and His glory. That does not negate the agonizing pain and sorrow and sting of losing a child. Imagine yourself in that position. Choose your words carefully. The Lord’s will can be pain-filled. His better can be our worst, but we trust him. Just be our loving friend.
  • Forget about us and our daughter. Everyone gets caught up in the suddenness of death and we were overwhelmed with flowers, food, gifts, visitors, cards, and more. Suddenly that began to fade and people went back to their lives because they aren’t living in that day-to day-grief. It became lonely at times. People don’t want to even talk about your loved one for fear of making you hurt. But please remember them with us! We love talking about Faith! It is our joy to share about her life with anyone who will listen. It means so much to us that some still send texts or cards years later on her birthday and her home going date. She lived a short but meaningful life and it means so much to us that she left an eternal mark on the hearts of those who were blessed to know her.

Hymns or songs that comforted us:

  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Chisholm/Runyan
  • My Jesus I Love Thee, Featherson/Gordon
  • It Is Well with My Soul, Spafford/Bliss
  • Be Still and Know, Steven Curtis Chapman

The hope Jesus has given us through our loss of Faith:

The hope of heaven is so much sweeter knowing that we will be reunited with our sweet daughter. But even through the darkest of days when you feel like all around you is as black as night and you will never come through the other side, Jesus sees. He is the light that will guide you and the strength that will pull you through. And He is SO, SO good.

Bulk Order Request