13 Jan Interview with Angie Smith
What would you do if you learned that your baby is not going to live? Angie Smith is in studio with us.
Angie Smith is the bestselling author of five books: I Will Carry You, What Women Fear, Mended, & Audrey Bunny, and Chasing God. She is a popular speaker and travels with Women of Faith, Lifeway, and other organizations committed to sharing the good news of the Gospel in a relatable, down to earth way.
Initially her blog “Bring The Rain” gathered the attention of readers as they followed her journey through pregnancy and loss, and now she is blessed to continue sharing what the Lord is doing through her words in many different ways.
Angie received her Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University and is honored to be the wife of Todd Smith (lead singer of the Christian group “Selah”) and the mother of five daughters: Ellie, Abby, Kate, Charlotte, and her sweet Audrey who waits for her in glory. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tennessee.
Click to read Transcript
EASLEY: Today in the studio, I’m delighted to have Angie Smith. Angie, thank you for taking the time to be with us. It’s so great to have you. Thanks for taking some time and stopping by.
SMITH: Thanks for having me.
E: It’s so great to have you.Tell us a little bit about your story, your history, how you guys met. Bring us up to date a little bit before we go back in history and some of the stories of your blog. So give us a little intro of who you are.
S: Hi, I’m Angie. I’m married. I’ve been married for 13 years and my husband is Todd Smith. Some of the listeners might know him as the lead singer of the Christian group “Selah.” Pretty gifted. Pretty handsome too. We have four beautiful daughters. We live here in Tennessee.
E: The ages of your girls?
S: Well that’s going to give away my age a little bit.
E: You can mumble. You can mumble.
S: I was very young. I have identical twins who are eleven-girls, and then an 8 year old and a 3 year old.
E: You’re also the author of 4 books: I Will Carry You, What Women Fear, Mended and Audrey Bunny and you’ve got one that’s out now, a new one?
S: Just came out, yeah.
E: Chasing God. Alright, so you didn’t start out to be a writer?
S: No, I didn’t. I always wanted to be though.
S: Yeah, I would say growing up, that was the thing I was most drawn to, but it wasn’t’ really a practical option. So I did what everyone does in that situation. I studied Psychology in school, that or communications,graduated with a master’s degree, but always just had a passion for writing. No, never thought it would be something I would do for a living.
E: Did you enjoy writing in high school and college?
S: I did. It was always just an outlet for me. It was a way for me to process, whatever I was going through. And so, I always did it and enjoyed it, but it was more for me than it was for sharing.
E: Let’s jump way ahead in years. You began a blog, like I’m looking at one post that was a Jan 12, 2008 blog that essentially blew up and it’s the “beginning of the story,”you call it. We can direct our listeners to it a little later, but why don’t you give us the background of what happened for you guys and why you started processing it this way.
S: Well, we were expecting, what was going to be our 4th daughter at the time and went in for just a normal ultrasound and didn’t expect anything extraordinary. Other than that we might finally find out that we were having a boy, because this was the gender ultrasound. And we didn’t, it was a girl. During the ultrasound, right as it started I just could tell from the technicians faces, that something was really wrong. It was so serious, that just the expression on her face, I didn’t even ask, “What’s wrong?” or “can you tell me what’s happening?” The first thing I said was, “ is the baby going to live?” And she said, “I don’t think so. I’m going to go get the doctor.”
E: I’m going to stop you. It’s kind of unusual with today’s HIPAA, overprotection of information that a tech would actually say that.
S: It surprised me too. I’m a good manipulator in these situations. I was terrified. I was in tears. I think based on the way she was looking at things, it was so severe, that I almost think she thought I could tell from the ultrasound, but I just wasn’t well educated enough to be able to discern what she was seeing. It was pretty clear to her right away.
E: You’ve had friends undoubtedly in the past that have lost children?
E: You’ve had friends that have gone through children with disabilities, adopted a child with complications? It breaks our heart. We think about it but now it’s you.
S: Yeah, and I’d had a miscarriage early on in our marriage and it was incredibly difficult. This was just a different place for me because you know, you go into that appointment and everything has always been normal in the past and you’re expecting it to be normal this time. I was in complete shock!
E: So what happens next? Doctor comes in?
S: He comes in and, I actually don’t remember it super well. I think I was just sort of in a fog. I remember when he came in and he said, “ Do you kind of have a sense of what’s going on?” For whatever reason, I always feel like when I tell this story, it sounds almost like I always have these super spiritual moments in crisis. I wish that were the case, but I really think I just needed to feel how steady the foundation was and something in me that was so rattled that when he came in I just looked at him and I said, “I just know that my Jesus is exactly the same as He was before I walked in the door.” That wasn’t language that made sense to him so he kind of gave me the knee pat, like “Ok, whatever’s going to keep you calm.”
E: Good for you, honey.
S: Yeah, good. Just cling to that, and I did. He sat down and went over the ultrasound. To make a long story short, he suggested that we terminate the pregnancy the next day.
E: So Todds out in the waiting room?
S: He’s with me.
E: Oh, he’s in the room?
S: And so is my mother in law, who was supposed to fly home that day and just had the sense that the Lord was telling her to stay. So she did and she came to the ultrasound with us.
E: Ok, so you’ve got this news. It’s a bombshell. You’ve got a little bit of confidence somewhere in there that it’s ok. But you’re still terrified and scared. What’s next?
S: Well he sort of went through all of the different issues that he was seeing. There were a number of physical problems. The biggest was that her kidneys’ hadn’t developed the way they were supposed to, and so as a result there wasn’t any amniotic fluid which is what develops the lungs. It was sort of this domino effect and he went through other things as he talked.
E: It’s a wall of information coming at you.
S: It was. After the first couple, it was just too much to process. Each of those things made her, what they called, incompatible with life. That term just kept coming up. It was sort of like, he even got to the end of his list. Like, I can keep going on, but this is what we need to do.
E: She’s not going to survive.
S: No, so there’s no point in you continuing the pregnancy. He wasn’t a cruel man. We obviously have different worldviews at that point. He’s doing what he thinks is the most effective, proper decision at that point. We just sort of sat there stunned and they brought us into another room and let us talk things through, explain things that I didn’t understand. “ You can terminate the pregnancy here tomorrow or if you’re really struggling and you want to wait a few weeks, you can drive a couple hours and they’ll still allow you to terminate at this time.” They’re giving us all these options.
S: Totally surreal, that’s the word.
E: So you and Todd pray about it, you call somebody? You ask for counsel? What do you do?
S: All of those things. But at first, I always want to say this when I tell my story, because I think when you’re objectively listening to someone and you have your own life experience, things tend to sound very black and white from other people. Obviously, I’m pro life. That’s where I stand on the issue, but I need to tell you that in that moment when they were saying, “Your daughter will be in pain if you carry her.” You know there are moments in your mind where you’re thinking, “Lord, what is the most humane thing for me to do? How am I best parenting my child? Is it selfish of me? I think this is what your Word tells me to do. I think this is what you tell me to do.” But when you’re in that moment, and you have the wisdom of a medical team advising you, and the heart of a mother, and you’re crying out, there are moments where you just want to make sure you’re doing the right thing. So we struggled, we wrestled with that. Next morning we had a second opinion and that doctor confirmed that the baby would not be in pain and that there was nothing detrimental that would happen by carrying her. I wanted to hear someone say that.
E: Interesting. By the way, let me interrupt for a second.
E: You know cause, I tell people you have to become your own advocate. No longer can the nurse or doctor tell us everything. You’re becoming your own advocate. I’ve got to learn the whole story here. You might visit two or three or four physicians here and you might have four completely different opinions. But at some point, Angie and Todd have got to make a decision.
S: That’s right. So that next morning we did and we said, “We’re going to carry her. We don’t know how long we’ll have her, but she’s ours until the Lord takes her.” It’s kind of a long story. I wrote about it about it in the book, “I Will Carry You”. We found this bunny that had a mark on it’s heart at a store, and her heart was one of the other issues that they found and so we went back to the store and we bought the bunny. The woman at the store was trying to rub off the mark and I’m bawling my eyes out saying, “It’s not going to come off,” and she’s like, “Well let me give you a discount.” I said, “No, we want to pay full price; this is ours.” So we took her home and we set her on a little chair and put bandaids over her heart and we gathered our other girls around.
E: How old are the other girls at this point?
S: They’re around six and three?
E: So the six year old is processing this pretty concretely. Mommy has a baby in her tummy and the baby is not well. The three year old is probably not engaged so much.
S: Yeah, she likes the idea of the stuffed animal.
E: The bunny?
S: Yeah, and so we put the little bandaids on the bunnies heart and we just said, “This is what the doctors have told us. We trust the Lord more than anyone here, but this is what we think we need to be prepared for. So we are just going to enjoy her while we have her. You can’t see her, but she’s in my tummy. She’s your sister. What do you want to do with her, while we have her?” And my daughter Ellie said, “I want to show her Cinderella’s castle.” So we actually planned a trip and went to Disney World and we have pictures of her talking to my stomach and pointing to the castle. I gave them little cameras with disposable film and so we have pictures of my stomach and it says, “Audrey at the park, “Audrey at the ballet.” So she was a part of our lives. I wanted them to feel like she was their sister.
E: Fast Forward a little bit. You decide to carry her? Tell us about delivery.
S: She was born on April 7, 2008. She was beautiful. She looked alot like her sisters. She had bright red hair. I think probably my favorite moment of the day, other than the fact that she was even born alive, that was such a gift, that my doctor had allowed me to have a C-Section. I’d never had one before, but he was a believer. This was a different doctor. So he let me have a C-Section because we thought that was her best chance of survival. When she was born, I said, “Is she breathing?” and my husband said, “Yeah, she’s breathing. She’s beautiful.” They had told us beforehand, there’s no way with her condition, that she could weigh over 2 lbs. She’s just this teeny tiny, little thing. So we had taken her back into the room and Todd was there and his parents, and some of our family, and they set her on the scale and it said, 3 lbs, 2 oz. The whole room started clapping and it was like, she’s got weight. It was another moment like you had just described. They had given us what they thought was their expert opinion. I felt like in that moment, the Lord said, “You don’t know how much this child weighs. I know because I’m knitting her.” In that moment, it was sort of redemptive, powerful moment and we got to keep her for about 2 and 1/2 hrs.
E: Wow. Wow. We’ve got a large audience listening around our country and there are fifteen opinions about what you just said. We have pro-life, pro-choice, all points in between.
E: When you’re holding Audrey, and you’re knowing she’s not going to survive long, there would be those that would say, “Well Angie, why didn’t you just terminate early and not go through the prolonged agony and the pain?” It’s your choice, you had doctors who were encouraging that.
S: I’ve been asked that question before and I’m sure had plenty of people disagree with me, but where I always land is: if you had been sitting with me that day, if you had just been eye to eye and you would have seen what we saw in the life that we got to celebrate for those few hours and the joy that she brought us, the way that she has fundamentally changed every single person, that got to meet her and so many more. I don’t know any other way but to fight for the time that God gave us. That’s where my heart lands, and let me say though, It wasn’t easy. There were plenty of times where I knew I had made the hard choice, but it was the right, hard choice for me. I’m so grateful that we did.
E: I use a line, imperceptible influence; that we don’t often, maybe rarely, know how God is going to use something. You and Todd see it in the music realm. When I teach, you know, you might say something incidental and someone comes up and says, “You said such and such” and I have no recognition of ever saying that thing, but somehow God uses it. So there’s imperceptible influence for all of us. That God is working beyond and in spite of us sometimes. So you’ve gotten glimpses of that probably.
S: I have. I feel like I’ve been spoiled with them, a little bit to be honest.
E: Share some of those with us.
S: I think you know, even the way that the Lord came to us. There’s just something so unintimidating about a baby. You know, there were moments where I would be in a grocery store, big and pregnant, and people would say things like they do in conversation like, “What are you having, when are you due, you’re having another one?” because I had all my little ones running around with me. It would always be something where I would just say, “Lord speak, “Is this an opportunity that you’ve given me?” and sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t. But I would just sort of sense if there was a nudging from the Holy Spirit to have a deeper conversation. Alot of times, it was just mom to mom. It wasn’t standing on a pedestal and bashing her over the head with the Bible. It was me saying, “This is what matters in my life and this is why I’m doing that.” and I think they could see this joy that didn’t make sense.
E: Can’t figure it out.
S: Yeah, I love the way you phrase that because I feel like I don’t know how the Lord used those moments. I can’t even express to you how much I’m overwhelmed by the thought of being in eternity and having the opportunity to see faces there who said, “Audrey was the reason that I heard the name of Jesus.” Thats’ powerful. Very powerful.
E: It is. I was very young and serving in a local church and there was a child and a cephalic baby and the pro-life community was telling this couple to carry the baby to term. The doctors were saying, “No, you need to terminate.” Then they pull in the pastor, like I’ve got some hotline to God on this, but I’ll never forget talking to a friend of mine, Dr. Joe Mcllhaney, who is a wonderful physician, is retired in Texas now. Listening to him talk to this young couple about this, and being pro life is a wonderful thing, but when we know death is certain and just gently walking through the decisions that they need to make. It struck me; there’s no way to do the right thing and appease even those within the Christian community. So you’ve got to dig deep. You and Todd have got to get to a place where, ok, Lord, we trust you with our decision, even sometimes parents saying crazy things.
S: Oh yeah
E: But yet, you don’t know that particular child and a few others that, I don’t want to say privilege, but it is to put a child in the ground, a small box,and it’s the most depressing thing in the world to watch two adult parents put their child into the ground. And it’s also kind of a holy, strange, bizarre experience. You almost feel like a voyeur in those moments.
S: It’s so intimate.
E: But at the same time, many people came to Christ through each of those stories, and as a hack Theologian, sort of intellectual approach to life, there’s no category for that. And you step back and say, “Ok, Lord, I’m an idiot. I don’t know anything.” Death is part of life, but it’s backwards. We’re supposed to die.
S: I think that’s part of it, is being a parent and going through that you think that’s one of the things we’re never supposed to do. But the only thing worse than that, is going through that and really not believing that you’re going to see that child again. That’s the part that, that you know…
E: And I suspect a lot of anger comes from the community that would say, pro-choice, I’ll do what I want, you can’t tell me. If for one moment you thought, that this was a child, if for one moment, you thought there was a relationship here, it would dismantle you. There’s where it’s, I know it’s politically incorrect to say, but the maternal part of a woman that wants to, as my wife said to me, “Give me children, else I die.” after our first biological and no more. There’s something in her, that she had to have children. Now again, that’s not blanket universal, but for women that want kids.
S: I think too, when you get to a season like this in your life, where you have to face some things about God, that maybe you haven’t before, and whether that’s infertility, or miscarriages, or loss of a child, there comes a time in that longing for women who haven’t’ been able to have it happen the way that they want it to, and what an opportunity there to, I don’t know, just to really have a sense of longing for God more than anything else that we have here.
E: We’re talking to Angie Smith, author of I Will Carry You, What Women Fear, Mended, Audrey Bunny and her new released book “Chasing God”. Now Angie, when people have a traumatic event in their life, a fire, a death, whatever, it’s everything pre and post, before the fire. It’s post now. When you mark life in time, and you look back on this now, what are some ways you’ve changed?
S: I wouldn’t say that I’m unrecognizable from who I was, but so much of me has changed. Probably the most primary way that I’ve seen a difference, is in my relationship with the Lord. Because I became a believer as an adult and so I wasn’t’ raised in the church and this was really the first major crisis that I had walked through as a Christian. So you know, you’re testing new ground with the Lord, “How do we get through this, are you enough for me in the moment, where I’m in a hospital bed and I’ve just handed my deceased daughter to a nurse and now the room is empty. Are you enough for me right now?” So what has shifted in me is, I know that He is. God forbid, that I should ever walk through a season like that again. I know that He’ll be there. And there’s a sweetness to that, as bitter as everything was. There’s a sweetness to having that relationship with Him.
E: F.B Meyer was talking about Abraham and having to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. In his commentary, and I won’t quote it precisely, but essentially, he said, “When God told Abraham to offer his son, your only son, Isaac, it was not God’s test to see if Abraham had failed. It was God’s vote of confidence, that I have brought you this far and I know you have faith in me enough to follow me, no matter how credible it may seem. There was a vote of confidence in him and is it fair to say, for you and Todd?
S: Yeah, I think it is. That story was really special to me actually, during my pregnancy. There was one morning when Ellie came down and I had told them the story the night before, and she was five or six at the time, and she said,”Mommy, you know that story where God stopped Abraham and his son didn’t have to die?” and I said, “Yes”. And she said, “I don’t think he’s going to say that to us. “
S: So even after I lost her, I felt like there came a time when I had to walk down the mountain without my child. So you think about Abraham. Of course, you get to the bottom, and he named a place. This is where God provided and I thought, “What do I name the place?” I don’t feel like He provided, not the way that I was hoping He would. I went back and studied it and probably the most profound moment I’ve ever had with the Lord in Scripture was, reading them coming down and seeing a ram and loosening the ram and that’s what they used as the offering. I thought, “He didn’t provide the ram for me, and there was the human sense like He didn’t keep His promise.” The more I read it, and read it, and read it, I noticed that on the way up, what God promised was a lamb, and He did provide that, nearby, many years later. I spent a lot of my life with my eyes on the thicket instead of the cross, waiting for a ram instead of a lamb. So for me, the most fundamental shift has just been, it isn’t about my circumstances, or my situation, it’s about the Lord and what He’s doing. That sounds really great on paper, but I feel like I can actually live it out now.
E: What do you say to Mom’s out there, maybe as a teenage girl? Maybe there’s a mom who’s carrying an unknown complication, maybe there’s an amniocentesis test that has come back with some caution, what do you say to them?
S: Well first I would say, “I’m sorry, and my heart breaks for what you’re going through and for the decisions you’re facing. You’re not alone in it.” I’m not a courageous person. I’m not a brave person. I struggled with fear for my entire life and if someone would have said something like this, or if I had heard something like this on the radio years ago, I would have said, I wouldn’t be the girl that would make that choice. So I guess I would just say, “spend genuine time with the Lord, asking Him to be present to you and to speak to you and to give you the courage that only He can.” I think it would surprise the listeners to know what kind of person I am in real life and how unlikely this time was for me just because, it looks very courageous. I guess my words to anyone listening who’s walking through that is: this isn’t something that you were ever meant to walk through alone.
E: There are also all girls, moms, all kinds of ages who have terminated their pregnancies, who’ve had one, two, three abortions, who maybe have never opened that door emotionally or spiritually. What would you say to them?
S: When I do speaking events a lot of times, I get to a point and I just say, “If you would be open enough to stand, if you’ve ever have lost a child, whether that was a miscarriage, or a stillbirth, or abortion, whatever the situation, would you just stand?” It’s very seldom that less than 75% of the room stands.
S: At least. There have been times, I’ve done Women of Faith events, where there are 12,000 women and you see 10,000 stand up. Then you just hear weeping because there’s the sense of I’m not alone in this. I have women come up to me and say, “I lost a child 40 years ago. I’ve never spoken about it until this day,” because generations ago, that’s just not the way that it was done. So even with abortion, the enemy would like nothing more than for you to stay seated in your shame and not realize that you can stand up and suffer that. You can grieve. I would love to look back over my life and say there were things, I wouldn’t do differently now. There certainly are. I just see the way the enemy has worked on that group, so much, and just want them to stay clothed in the shame and feel alone. I think the realization, that they aren’t, is probably the most powerful thing that they can do.
E: We all live with regrets and it’s impossible to quantify them, you know stealing something is not maybe as big a regret as something else, and yet that shame, and that guilt, and that anger and all those emotions still keep God at bay.
S: Yes, it’s so true.
E: So Angie tell us how to find you. There’s many ways. We can go to “Bring the Rain.”
S: “Bring the Rain” Is the name of the blog. The website is Angiesmithonline.com.
E: Thanks so much for being with us today and God bless you and Todd on your journey and your continued ministry.
S: Thank you.
E: Well again, you’ve been listening to Angie Smith on Michael Easley inContext. You can find out more about her from her website at Angiesmithonline.com. This is Michael Easley inContext.