This is the only picture we have from when my wife was pregnant with Eli – another reality that’s saturated with both grief and gratitude. We’re thankful for the photo but we are still devastated that this is the only one we have. Her water broke mere hours before the maternity shoot we had scheduled with our best friend and just a few days before the photoshoot we were supposed to have with my family. Pictures we were desperate for but would never get to take.

Nevertheless, this photo brings us back to when Eli was with us. When we could hear his heartbeat, feel his kicks, see him at ultrasounds, and sing to him at night. The days were dark as we anticipated his death, but his life blessed us with surprising joy in the storm.

This picture also reminds me of the beautifully exclusive relationship he had with his mom.

Jillian knows Eli in a way that only his mother can. Because of that, she carries an emptiness that only she knows. She selflessly gave her body on behalf of our boy, enduring the pain of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum realities knowing that he would not survive. She carefully weighed every decision we made so we could choose what was best for our child. She still speaks his name with pride and finds unique ways to remember him in our home. She celebrates Eli because he was a precious gift and grieves his loss because he’s worth the sorrow. She refuses to entertain shallow consolations, choosing instead the exhausting path of waiting for the deep hope that can only be produced by the God we still wrestle with.

Her love for her son is a fierce and staggering display of motherhood. And while I lament all the things Eli never got to experience, I revel in what he knew: his mom.

I’ve had the opportunity to be fairly vocal about our story, but my words are mere whispers compared to the volume of her affection.