customized boxes to nourish the soul after loss
It Is Wondrous 
by Aleisa Yusko
photos by Melanie Pace and Aleisa Yusko
 

Aleisa is the birth mother of one, mother of two on earth, and mother of one in heaven. She and her husband established Atlantic Sign Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2003 where Aleisa does graphic design on an “as needed” basis. She is an artist, intermittent blogger, aspiring author, and a mentor to families who receive life-limiting prenatal diagnoses. You can find her online at noraroseyusko.com.

 

In the wee hours of a warm summer morning, my first born breathed air into her lungs for the first time. The sound of her first cry is seared into the folds of my memory, even all these years later. Her adoptive parents were tearfully excited to hold their sweet bundle for the first time. I knew down to the core of my soul that I was making the right decision — even though my heart was shattered.

Days later, I would hand her over to her adoptive parents under the roof of a picturesque gazebo in Eden Park (Cincinnati). I would somehow muster up the strength to walk away from that scene that I so badly wished was mine. I glanced back at them as our car drove away, tears spilling down my cheeks, my breasts engorged with milk for a baby who was no longer with me. In my short 20 years, this was the hardest thing I had ever had to endure. Although I was proud of the fact that I had given her life, her absence in my own life was much like grieving a death. I mourned her deeply.

Over the years, I received letters and pictures from my birth daughter’s mother. I treasured every word about her, and would stare at her photographs for hours. I thought about her and missed her every single day and dreamed about meeting her someday. Then, I received the letter one day out of the blue — my birth daughter wanted to meet me! 

We arranged to meet for the first time in the atrium of Crossroads church in Oakley.  I watched her walk in the door with her mom, tears spilling down my cheeks. I made my way toward her and finally got to hold her in my arms in a long, tearful embrace. It had been 17 years since I had last held her. There is nothing on earth that I can compare to the euphoria of that moment. This baby girl, all grown up. She was stunning.

Three months after our meeting, I found out that I was expecting again! I had gone on to get married and have two more children after my birth daughter. This was my fourth pregnancy. Our other two children were now 6 and 8 years old. We were surprised by the news, but no less excited.

My pregnancy was marked with typical “all day” sickness, the cravings and aversions. Nothing out of the ordinary presented itself until the day we went for our 20-week ultrasound. The ultrasound results hinted at a possible genetic abnormality. We weren’t terribly alarmed, but opted for further testing for peace of mind. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the words, “I’m sorry, your baby is showing a triplicate of the 18th chromosome, trisomy 18.”

My whole world swirled perilously into a downward spiral. I was incredibly angry with God. “I have already been through the loss of one baby, wasn’t that enough?” The statistics were not good. We were told our baby would likely die hours or days after the birth — if not before. We were given the option to terminate the pregnancy. Just as with my first born, I was not willing to risk the sorrow and the deep regret that would have burdened me for the rest of my life. I trusted that God had some sort of plan, even though I was mad at Him.

On April 17, 2012, Nora Rose was born. Hearing her first cry after I had prepared myself for the possibility of silence was indescribable. To hold her, to kiss her skin, to breathe her in and absorb the wonder of her mighty life — she was perfect in my eyes and I wouldn’t have traded her for anything.

For just over two years, God lent us this beautiful soul. Nora made a brilliant, unforgettable impact on this earth, and touched countless lives all over the globe — God’s plan, indeed. The sunny days that we hoped would never end clouded over in late May of 2014. In the wee hours of June 3rd, my last-born breathed air into her lungs for the last time. We cradled her sweet body for six hours until the sun came up, then we would somehow muster up the strength to get into our car and drive back to our painfully quiet house without our sweet Nora. I mourn her deeply.

I draw comfort from the parallels between my adoption decision and Nora’s physical death. I know I will miss Nora for the rest of my life, yet I am capable of enduring this pain. Time will tick by faster than I ever could imagine, as it has been doing all along. I will ache for her every day and dream about her longingly. I imagine she’ll be there waiting as I pass into the next life, chubby little arms outstretched, ready to receive my impassioned embrace. Because of my birth daughter, I got a glimpse of that euphoria in this life, and it is wondrous.