The nurse pushed Nancy’s wheelchair onto the elevator. Her husband stood next to her, his arms filled with bags of her belongings. Nancy looked up and noticed the other woman in the elevator. She, too, was in a wheelchair, but she was holding a newborn infant wrapped in a pink blanket.
Nancy felt an intense feeling of loss. “I came here to have my baby,” she thought, “but I’m not bringing her home.”
“The feeling of empty arms just stayed with me,” Nancy explained in a recent interview. “I didn’t understand it at the time, but God was going to use that feeling to help other women.”
Less than a week before, Nancy was thirty-seven weeks pregnant, anticipating the birth of twins. As a favor to her doctor, she allowed him to do an ultrasound on her to demonstrate the new mobile ultrasound machine at their small-town medical office in Hamilton, New York.
She and her doctor were both shocked at the results. It showed only one baby and a whole lot of fluid. Nancy was sent to Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, New York, where her precious daughter, Melanie Lynn, was born the next day, November 17th, 1983, by emergency C-section. She weighed in at what seemed to be a healthy weight—8lbs 6oz, but she was filled with fluid, and her lungs weren’t developed. She was whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit where they drained the fluid and put her in an induced coma.
Though Nancy was still sick herself, the nurses would wheel her down to the NICU so she and her husband could hold their daughter. Melanie passed away at only three days old.
“I praise God we had that time with her to celebrate her life before we had to mourn her death. That was a gift, and I am grateful he chose me to carry her for those thirty-seven weeks.”
The aftermath of losing her child was difficult. Nancy was grieving but had no time to slow down since she had two young children, only eighteen months and three years old, and she became pregnant just six months later.
Nancy felt alone in her grief that first year. Her husband returned to work after a brief leave of absence, and, though her doctor reached out to her, she had no formal counseling. However, she remembers being comforted and encouraged by a few women who had also lost an infant. God used the compassion of these women to place a desire within Nancy’s heart to reach out to other women who were going through what she went through. “Where do I start?” she wondered.
She called a local professional counseling office and asked, “Do you ever have someone with a life experience come in and talk to a client with a similar experience, like a pregnancy loss?”
There was silence on the other end of the phone. After a long pause, the counselor said, “Do you have a degree in counseling?”
Nancy said, “No,” and was told she could call back if she decided to get a degree.
A degree in counseling felt unattainable to Nancy. She married right after graduating from high school and started having children right away.
A few years later Nancy had the chance to go to college, but she ended up taking medical office courses instead of counseling. She left after a year to take a full-time position at the hospital. Nancy worked in various medical offices for the next sixteen years. “I learned so much from each job I had. God was using these experiences to prepare me, but at the time, I didn’t know for what.”
In 2009, Nancy was notified that her office was closing and that she would be out of a job. Nancy felt bad about being forced out of her job, but she felt at peace. A week before the office closed, Nancy’s friend showed her a fax that had come into her church office from Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central New York. It was a job announcement for a director position at one of the centers.
“Me, a director?” she said, “I’m just a medical secretary,” but she went ahead and applied. She was surprised when she received a phone call from the Executive Director, Jacque Wagner, offering her the job. Nancy accepted the position, and Jacque became her mentor and good friend.
It wasn’t long before Nancy realized that this is what God was preparing her for all these years. She had a heart for the women who came into the center. “I never wanted anyone to feel terrified and alone,” she said. Referring to a Bible verse in 2 Corinthians, Nancy explained that this was God’s way of giving her a chance to give back to these women the comfort she had received from Him. “Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV).
About a year later, Jacque sent Nancy to an in-service led by the director of New Day, Care Net’s program which supports women through abortion recovery and infant loss. Nancy thought it was a wonderful program, and when she got back to her center, she put the notebook she had received on her bookshelf. Less than a month later a woman came to her who was broken over having an abortion, so much so that she had been in a mental institution. Nancy grabbed the notebook off the shelf and called the leader of the in-service, “What do I do?” she asked.
“You know what to do,” was the answer, “just love her and listen to her.”
A few months later, Jacque invited Nancy to come to Dallas with her for a conference. She suggested that Nancy take the Abortion Recovery track. Pat Layton, the author of a new book, Surrendering the Secret, was teaching how to use her book in abortion recovery. Also at the conference, Nancy sat under the teaching of Bruce Wilkinson who wrote the book, The Prayer of Jabez which is based on 1 Chronicles 4:10: “... Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory …” (NIV). Nancy began praying this prayer while she was still at the conference.
Nancy was surprised how quickly God answered her prayer. When she got back from Dallas, she was asked to become the director of the New Day program while continuing with her responsibilities as a center director.
Nancy coached multiple women through the program. As she did, God continued to heal her. There was such a great need that it got to be too much for just one person. “God impressed upon me that I needed a team, and he began to bring leaders to me.”
The first leader that came to Nancy was that first woman who had come to the center so broken. God had done a wonderful healing work in her life, and she felt inspired to help others. God kept sending women, each with her own story of healing, until they had a team of ten.
About this time, Nancy was drawn to a Bible verse in the book of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me … to comfort those who mourn …” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NIV).
“It was a revelation for me to realize that God has anointed me for this work and, I believe, the team members as well.” This remarkable team provides one-on-one and group support to guide women through three different programs: healing after abortion, pregnancy and infant loss support, and a new edition--the path to sexual healing. In 2022 alone, there were 136 counseling sessions provided.
Through the years, Nancy has counseled hundreds of women and has been blessed to see God heal them and transform their lives, but her work has not been limited to the women who walk through the doors at her center. Nancy attends the Healthy Beginnings agency meetings in her county and occasionally is invited into a local hospital to debrief medical professionals after they lose an infant.
“Remember? I’m the woman without the degree going to speak to the medical staff,” Nancy said, “but it is such an honor and a privilege. I always start by sharing my story of losing my daughter, and I assure them that it is not their fault that the infant in their care died. I tell them that God is the Author of life, and He is the One in control of its beginning and end. And I pray with them.”
Nancy is amazed at how God has answered her prayers. “It is the beauty of God. Even though, like Moses, I didn’t feel qualified, I always said, ‘Yes’ to God, and He kept stretching me.”
At the end of 2022, Nancy stepped down as a center director so she could concentrate solely on the New Day program. This coincided with New Day using a new book, Unexpecting by Rachel Lewis. For the first time, Nancy went through the curriculum with a client and finished on her daughter Melanie’s birthday. The book talked about the legacy of the child you lost.
“Normally we pass on a legacy to our children,” Nancy explained, “but when our children leave us, they pass on a legacy to us, and God has a plan and a purpose to use those things that they pass on to us.” After thirty-nine years, Nancy realized that her work at Care Net was her daughter’s legacy. She wrote a letter to her daughter Melanie on her birthday explaining this. Nancy has agreed to share her letter:
How has it been 39 years since I saw you, held you, kissed your face?
I look at your tiny footprints stamped on a paper, proof that you were
here with us once …
… Yet your presence in our hearts never left. I was asked to think
about what your legacy is, what you left behind that lives on. I realized
that instead of me passing on a legacy to you, you have left yours to me.
Every time I walk another mother through their journey of loss, support
a New Day team member in their healing process, do a debriefing with
medical staff after a traumatic infant loss, or tell my story (our story)
anywhere, you are right there with me. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to see you
grow up, marry, give me more grandchildren and change the world; but
you changed my world, and I am honored that God chose me to be your
Mom. You bring me joy even now. Your legacy remains – it is my life’s
work – and it sends ripples of healing into eternity where I will see you
If you are interested in learning more about New Day services, or if you or a loved one has experienced a reproductive loss, including a loss due to abortion, you can reach Nancy and the New Day team at 315-525-6986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about Nancy: Nancy Gaiser has been married to her husband, John, for 43 years. She has three children here, one in heaven, and 15 grandchildren. She has worked with Care Net Pregnancy Center of CNY for 13 years as Center Director and A New Day Director, where she oversees a team of women (and one man) who facilitate healing for those with reproductive losses, including abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, and ectopic pregnancy. She is abundantly blessed to allow God to use her story of infant loss to help others heal, and to carry out her daughter’s legacy here on earth. She is currently working on her Certification in Reproductive Loss Counseling.
*Background image from Julita from Pixabay.
More stories from the “Gift of Life” series:
Paul Marshall: Allowing God to Redeem Your Pain
Colleen Thomas: Embracing Down Syndrome
Tamara Wanner: Finding Hope Through Adoption
Amy Myers: Finding Hope in Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
Julee Wilson: Hope in Choosing Life Amid Uncertainty
Finding Identity and Purpose in Christ: a story of a secret adoption
Karen McMillan: Bringing Hope to the Next Generation