A Light in the Room: Family shares memories of Asher

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

mementos: Memories of Asher are always close to his parent’s hearts.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

mementos: Memories of Asher are always close to his parent’s hearts.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Inside the home of Becky and Steven “Bubba” Carpenter, there are pictures of three young boys.
However, only the sounds of four-year-old Colt and four-month-old Silas can be heard inside their Picayune home.
In 2013, the Carpenter family experienced one of life’s most unimaginable tragedies, the loss of their son Asher.
Becky and Bubba have been married for almost six years and knew from the beginning of their marriage that they wanted to start a family. They were married in July 2010 and found out they were pregnant with Colt that November.
Her first pregnancy and delivery went well.
In March 2013, the Carpenters discovered they were expecting their second child.
“Everything was fine in the beginning until we went to my 17 week appointment,” Becky said. “Doctors saw a large abdominal mass, but couldn’t tell what it was. We knew it wasn’t good.”
The Carpenters saw a specialist at Tulane in New Orleans, but it was still too early to diagnose what was wrong with their baby.
Until she was six months pregnant, Becky’s doctors in Picayune and Tulane evaluated her baby’s progress every week.
Doctors diagnosed Asher with Limb Body Wall Complex, an extremely rare disorder, of which there is no known cause or cure, the Carpenters said.
“Amniotic bands, which are like rubber bands, formed in the womb,” Becky said. “Openings and closings in the sac caused the bands, which affects the baby’s body. That’s why some babies are born with a missing finger or arm. The bands were wrapped around his chest. His organs were located outside of his belly and he had spina bifida and a club foot.”
The doctors at Tulane told the Carpenters that Becky could either carry Asher to full term or terminate the pregnancy at six months.
The latter was not an option for the Christian couple, so they opted to continue the pregnancy. To further complicate the situation, the umbilical cord was short.
During the next few weeks, Becky felt Asher moving around and wasn’t in any physical distress.
“There was the emotional torture of knowing I was carrying a baby that was not going to come home with me,” Becky said. “When I was seven months pregnant, we signed DNR papers. We decided if he was supposed to live, God would provide a way and if he wasn’t, we weren’t going to put him through the torture.”
The Carpenters began creating memories with Asher.
The Carpenters said they weren’t going to lie to their son.
They took maternity photographs and explained to an inquisitive two-year-old Colt that Asher would have to go to heaven first before he could play with his brother.
Becky found the support group Sufficient Grace, who provides services for families who suffered losses. They provided the family with a baby book, a bracelet for Becky and Asher, a burial gown and teddy bear.
For three months, the Carpenters made all the memories they could, but also prepared for Asher’s funeral.
The doctors at Tulane asked Becky to consider having a C-section, but knowing her baby might only live for a few minutes, she opted for a natural birth. Her doctor in Picayune told her he would come up with a plan. Because of the short umbilical cord, Becky could hemorrhage during childbirth.
“If he was going to die, I wanted it to be in my arms,” she said.
During her eighth month, on Sept. 15 2013, Becky went into labor while she was at a restaurant with Colt and other family members. Bubba was away at work.
When she got to the hospital, she was hemorrhaging and her blood pressure decreased.
The doctor told her he would have to put her to sleep and she was transferred to the operating room, where she called Bubba.
All she told her husband was that her water had broken and the doctors were going to perform a C-section.
“I knew he had to drive and I wasn’t about to tell him I was on my way out,” she said.
After learning about Becky’s situation from his mother-in-law, Bubba made his way to the hospital.
Asher was alive at birth and tried to breathe for about five minutes. A faint heartbeat was heard for about an hour and half. By the time Becky woke, Asher had died.
Prior to seeing Asher, the pediatrician repaired his stomach and wrapped him in a blanket so his parents wouldn’t see his organs.
“He looked great and had a head full of red hair,” Becky said. “I kissed him and called him my baby. He was born at 7:30 p.m. and died at 9 p.m. We stayed with him until about 4 a.m. It was the most peaceful time we have ever witnessed. I believe in God and heaven. It was like there was a light and joy in the room. What more can a parent ask for? He didn’t know this world, he was an innocent so I know he was going to heaven.”
Bubba called the nurse and gave her Asher. He didn’t want Becky to do it for fear she would feel she was giving away her baby.
The worst part of the ordeal was the realization that she wouldn’t be bringing home a baby, Becky said.
“I felt like I had failed my kids and hung my head in shame,” she said. “I felt physically and emotionally empty.”
Asher was buried with a crocheted blanket, a bracelet, a gown and a cross necklace. The Carpenters held a small graveside service for their son.
At the time, Bubba said he didn’t feel like he had done everything he could to protect his family.
“As a father and husband you feel your job is to protect and do anything you can to keep them safe,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I did. But Becky is my concrete block, she’s a lot tougher than I am. If I didn’t have her I don’t know what I would do.”
Becky said she is often asked if God is so good, why does he take children?
“Sometimes he has to break us down to build our faith so we can help others,” Becky said. “Since his death, I’ve had the opportunity to be supportive to others. He was our child and we are proud. Some are ashamed of miscarriage or feel responsible. It’s just the situations we are dealt. I encourage people to stay the course because God gave us all these hardships to prove that he is with us and guide us through the dark times with our faith and find happiness once again.”
The Carpenters celebrate Asher’s birthday and during Christmas, Becky purchases a snow globe.
About four months ago, she gave birth to Silas.
Next weekend, the family will walk with Highland Community Hospital’s March for Babies team as their ambassador family.
“Preterm birth and several different defects are very common,” she said. “People don’t want to talk about it because it’s painful. We learned that babies do die, they’re not supposed to, but they do. They go back where they belong. Matthew 19:14 says, Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’’’

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