Tears of joy are a common sight during childbirth, but never were they more precious than at the birth of sweet baby Harper last month. Almost a year to the day after losing baby Lily 34 minutes after her birth, Kristen Ward welcomed a healthy baby in the same hospital, with the same doctor and much of the same medical staff.
"When I was 18 weeks pregnant with Lily Margaret we found out she had a terminal illness and that she wouldn't live past birth," Kristen shared. "Our hearts were broken. Lily was the first girl on my husband's side of the family in over 50 years. We were given the option to terminate our pregnancy. After very little thought we said no. G-d's promise isn't always what we want to hear. G-d's promise wasn't a healthy baby but it was to be with us during the hard road that he made for us. We were ready for that drive. At 37 weeks Lily came and with so much heartache there was so much joy when we saw our baby girl's face. The doctor thought she passed away during birth because of how blue her face was, but to our surprise we were blessed with her for 34 minutes on this earth. It was a short time but it was some of the best 34 minutes of my life."
Four months later, Kristen learned that she was again pregnant and due on Lily's birthday. But at the 12-week ultrasound, they learned that there were likely to be complications with this pregnancy as well. An amniocentesis followed, and the couple, who had decided they'd carry this baby to term regardless of the diagnosis, were ecstatic to learn that they were not only going to have a healthy baby but a baby girl as well.
Kristen went into labor a few days before Thanksgiving. Unlike the last time, where Kristen had a difficult time pushing, baby Harper — all 8 pounds and 6 ounces of her — came out in just one push. Kristen was surrounded by the same doctor, many of the same staff, and the same photographer. But according to her photographer and friend, Pensacola-based Jordan Burch, it was her older son, Cooper, who was the happiest of all.
The family hadn't told their kindergarten son about Lily's condition until the day before her arrival, so as not to upset him. They told him that once she was born, she wouldn't come with them — she'd be going straight to heaven. In typical kindergarten form, Cooper went to school the next day and proudly told his teacher, "I got a new baby sister yesterday, and today she is in heaven!" This time, a year older, he is truly enjoying his little sister. "Kristen's face was precious, but her little boy's face said it all," Jordan says. "It was a joy to watch his entire face light up, just as it had with Lily."
Kristen couldn't agree more. "I have never seen a little boy wrapped around a baby like he is with his new baby sister," she told us. "I pinch myself at times because even though we have been through so much pain in less than a year, we have been blessed so much. We were blessed to be Lily's parents. She made us see real beauty and how to love unconditionally. She is our Angel."
A heavenly angel watching over this sweet family. Read on to see Jordan's touching photos of Lily — which she says was "the most cherished shoot I have ever had the honor to capture" — and of Harper and the happy family.