Our pediatrician called us with an update on my daughter’s bilirubin levels. He told us to head to the children’s hospital. After a challenging labor and exhausting delivery, I did not want another hospital stay.

“She was His before she was mine,” I whispered to myself as my husband and I got into my SUV. As we sped down the interstate, I tried to focus on what was in front of me. A local realtor smiled at me from his billboard and pulled me back to our reality. I hated those signs on any ordinary day, but today his smile felt cruel. 

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My hair was sticking to my neck from both the humidity and my anxiety bubbling inside of my chest. I held my 3-day-old daughter’s hand, and for the first time, she looked as much as she weighed—five pounds. How did I let this happen? How was I not giving her enough breastmilk to help her little body rid itself of its excess bilirubin? How did I not know how to take care of or protect her? 

“We see this all the time,” said the kind check-in clerk when we arrived at the children’s hospital.

I didn’t care that this was a common occurrence because this was my child, and it wasn’t supposed to be happening.

We arrived at our semi-private room and a nurse told us she would take our daughter’s measurements. “Can you take off her onesie and socks?” she asked as she slipped on gloves. When she turned to look at us, I must have looked as if she was speaking a different language. She explained that the bili light would be the most effective with most of my daughter’s skin exposed. My husband took a seat at the foot of the table and held on to our daughter’s feet. I stared at the blue light that made my daughter glow. As the soft hum from the light and the ticking from the clock sang to us, we found out that we would be spending the night.

Our hospital room became a revolving door of faces I can’t remember, but with voices that still echo in my mind. The doctor with the concerned voice updated us on the effects of high bilirubin counts. The nurses with soft voices suggested I put up my feet as my postpartum swelling intensified. The interns with unsure voices asked if I had any more questions. The lab technicians with hopeful voices told me they would be quick with the pricks. 

I would stare out our window to the street below as I chewed on pieces of ice. In the distance, I could see the harbor and boats that bobbed in the saltwater. Outside of our hospital, life was still moving along. Families were catching glimpses of dolphins on tours and others were meeting for meals. My life was at a standstill. I was in the hospital staring down at them with worries of deafness and brain damage.

As thoughts began to swirl in my mind, I held on to the only constant I could find—that she was His before she was mine.

After one of my crying episodes, I fell asleep on the lounger that has forever given me backaches. My husband was snoring next to me when our pastor walked in, “Hey, there, guys,” he said as he peeked into the crib. I jolted up and threw on a smile and my too-small sandals. I was very matter-of-fact as I relayed all the information from the last 36 hours.

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He told us about how our love as parents was incomparable to what God feels for His children. He reassured us that while we didn’t have answers, God knew how this would all end and to find hope in that. Then we prayed. He reached for my daughter’s hand and placed his hand on my shoulder. I reached for my husband who braced the hospital crib. 

“Lord, let Ashley and Matthew rest in your promises and that you love this child more than they ever can. She was yours and will always be yours and for that, we praise you and know that nothing will stop your will. Amen.”

There it was—His before mine.

It’s been years since that hospital stay. After a few days in the hospital and a bilirubin blanket for home, she overcame jaundice. The baby that fell off the charts for months is now tall and “sturdy” for her age. Her weak cries are now lively sentences that include “amen” and “I love you.”

The reminder that she was His first is still whispered in my mind. I now remind myself of that assurance with her baby sister. While this world hurls sad days our way, there is one promise I know holds: they were His before they were mine.

Ashley I. Arinez

Ashley and her husband, Matthew are raising their two daughters and their rescue pit bull Bella in St. Louis, Missouri. After three previous losses and postpartum depression after having each of her daughters, Ashley shares her journey to and through motherhood on her personal blog.