The Babies We Send Home

Hidden behind many of these pages is a contemporary record of my family. It dates back to when my wife and I married in 1991 and there are many reasons I have not yet made it available to anyone. Someday it will be a part of the public archives here.

I don’t share these things now because I think the last things my kids need is their Dad talking about them on the Internet. I do that in bits and pieces on social media, as many parents do, because I just cannot contain myself at times.

But the more pure, complete and accurate stories of our history remain private for now.

Yet there are some family events I feel that must be publicly noted nearly as they happen. Such was the case three years ago when I lost my mother.

What follows is my record of recent events in the life of our eldest daughter, Aubree, and her husband, Ryan. I am well aware of the need for their privacy over these delicate matters.

I am likewise well aware of how their experience has profoundly affected all of us and the need that exists for ongoing discussion about what has transpired.

I am aware of the sacred and delicate nature of much of this event. I am not disclosing everything that has transpired for that very reason.

These are my recollections and reflections. They do not and cannot tell the entire story. Please forgive me if there are inaccuracies.


When Aubree and Ryan wed in November 2017 it was no secret they planned almost immediately to begin a family. Their age and circumstance made that something of a foregone conclusion and we all took joy in that prospect.

So when Aubree announced in January that they were expecting the news was met with great rejoicing. Their fairy-tale love story had indeed gone to the next level.

But by sometime in March Aubree and Ryan were made aware there were complications in their pregnancy.

Their baby was not measuring as big as he should have and he was not growing at a rate that was good. Something was very wrong.

Though not yet officially diagnosed, the doctors felt the baby had a chromosomal abnormality, a kind of miss-wiring of the DNA that prevents natural development. Of the type they spoke of it is almost always fatal.

Aubree and Ryan were devastated.

Though always given a sliver of hope by the doctors – these cases were sometimes misdiagnosed – together they faced a heartbreaking trial as a newlywed couple.

Aubree disclosed the details to very few people, I believe. As is her way, she methodically took inventory of everything – her feelings, her thoughts, and her options.

No part of this was unturned over the weeks as the baby continued to grow within her, albeit at a different pace and with a now-anticipated different outcome.

Looking back now I consider those weeks to be of consequential decision and deep soul searching for Aubree and Ryan.

Of course, there were tears. Of course there was great grieving. Of course, the full cycle of human emotions were felt by many of us, not just Aubree and Ryan.

But what I observed to be happening within Aubree in particular was a very conscious acceptance of what was happening and a deliberate effort to learn and gain from the experience somehow.

Over the course of these months of pregnancy we discussed all the possible outcomes.

What if the baby survived? What dangers did a long term pregnancy with a child having this condition present for Aubree? Could this impact their ability to have other children? So many questions were asked and considered over and over again.

None of this is the stuff that new parents usually have to contemplate. Where there was once great excitement in anticipating baby – picking out the crib, buying outfits, debating names, etc. – there was now just one difficult question after another.

Finally this week, it happened.

Aubree’s scheduled appointment included yet another ultrasound only this time no strong heartbeat was heard. The baby was gone.

It was at once one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming phone calls of my life.

This precious daughter of ours bravely called us to tell us of her decision to induce labor. The baby was a boy. And yes, there would be a small funeral for him.

She and Ryan had to make that same phone call to Ryan’s parents, to her grandparents, and to their siblings.

All were watching with great anticipation and concern for Aubree. All knew the significance of this event in their lives. All felt keenly their great hopes and their devastating disappointment.

I marveled when Aubree told us during this call, “I only want to feel what joy I can from this experience.”

I am pretty sure all were astonished at their stoic acceptance and struggle to find answers and hope going forward.

Later that night the phone rang again. It was Aubree and she was laughing.

“Dad,” she said. “You’re not going to believe this. We’ve been looking again at names and a name that recently stood out to me is Avery. Do you know what that name means?”

“I believe I do.” I said.

Shut up!” she laughed. “Can you believe that?”

The name means the same thing the name Aubree means: ruler of elves.

This is a longstanding fact of joy in our family. Aubree was five when her mother and I met. As our eldest child we knew she would be the leader of the pack. When our Christmas story unfolded that first year we were married I looked up the name Aubree and found it a coincidental, funny fact that her name means “ruler of elves”. As the first of seven dwarves in our house, this just seemed to fit her perfectly.

So does the name Avery fit for Aubree’s first child. His name would be Quin Avery Turley.


Over the course of that first phone call Aubree asked some interesting questions.

“Do we take Quin’s name to the temple and do his work for him?”

My first inclination in considering that question was no – it was not necessary for Quin to have ordinance work done.

He was perfect and didn’t require the same as those who walk in mortality.

For whatever reason, Heavenly Father took him home and his redemption was made automatic through the Savior.

But the question troubled me and I started to wonder if I understood that wrong.

So too did I feel the same about another question Aubree discussed: would Quin be given a name and a blessing?

Later that night as I tossed over these things, I decided it best to look it up on and see what the prophets have said about stillborn children.

The official church policy concerning stillborn births is short and plain.

No, temple ordinance work is not required of them and, yes, stillborn children can be given a name and a blessing.

The order in which such is administered is slightly different, as there are no official records of the child associated with the Church.

While I appreciated the policy it didn’t settle well with me, for whatever reason. I needed to understand better.

I felt about this grandson the same as I do my other grandsons. They need the blessings of the priesthood. Surely, I thought, there had to be more said about these precious souls.

I considered what I knew of babies from the stories in the scriptures.

One of my favorite of all stories comes from the New Testament, when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was at that time a little further along in pregnancy with John.

“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.” (Luke 1:41-44)

That scripture in the context of an unborn child tells us much.

John, a prophet and the forerunner of Christ, was indeed a select spirit.

But was he, in the womb, different really than any other baby?

He was alive. He was intelligent. He was a being aware of circumstance and capable of feeling.

Are not all babies?

Aubree and Ryan for three months or more went to the doctor on regular visits. Through modern technology they could witness in real time their baby alive in the womb. They saw him move. They heard his heartbeat.

It all brings to the surface one of the burning questions that man has asked since the beginning of time: when does life begin?

Some argue that it doesn’t begin until the baby is out of the womb – a life, they say, requires drawing breath.

Others are not so quick to pass that judgment.

Modern technology has assured over and over again that babies sometime during gestation gain knowledge of and some control over their bodies while in the womb.

They are subject and react to environmental conditions within their sphere: heat and cold, movement and such.

In my mind, this new grandson of ours was no different than any of the rest of us.

He is a child of God. He was known unto Him, as the Lord told Jeremiah:

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

Would not the Lord know my grandson just as well as He knew Jeremiah?

In my view, yes.

The Lord knows us all, even in the womb – even before the womb.

From modern scripture we have knowledge of this.

To Joseph F. Smith the Lord revealed in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.” (D&C 138:56)

On this night of the very sad phone call from my daughter – in the hours before his body would make its worldly debut – it struck me how well known and prepared Baby Quin was long before he resided within his mother’s womb.

He was, like all of us, called, set apart and sent forth on a mission — a mission designed for his growth and development.

Like all of us, his mission was unique and made just for him.

His mortal experience was different than the mortal experience than the rest of us. He never was allowed to leave that special protective sphere from within his mother.

But while there he experienced all that world had to offer and his parents witnessed that little life within.

Then he passed through what we all pass through. He left that life and went to what comes next.

Does his mortal experience lead to any less of an outcome than that of anyone else?

No – not less of an outcome.

Likely, more and different than the outcome we know.

Of these things the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke plainly and hopefully:

“We have again the warning voice sounded in our midst, which shows the uncertainty of human life; and in my leisure moments I have meditated upon the subject, and asked the question, why it is that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us, especially those that seem to be the most intelligent and interesting. The strongest reasons that present themselves to my mind are these: This world is a very wicked world; and it … grows more wicked and corrupt. … The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again. …”

That Aubree and Ryan – and indeed, all of us – would have cause to mourn is only natural.

We shared so much with Quin already before he was born it seems unfair to think of all the things we will never be able to share with him in this life.

The Prophet knew this.

He experienced the same himself, as he and Emma had lost several of their children. He said:

“I have a father, brothers, children, and friends who have gone to a world of spirits. They are only absent for a moment. They are in the spirit, and we shall soon meet again. The time will soon arrive when the trumpet shall sound. When we depart, we shall hail our mothers, fathers, friends, and all whom we love, who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”

But what of Aubree, my precious daughter who has righteously longed to be a mother?

Joseph was again very plain spoken:

“A question may be asked—‘Will mothers have their children in eternity?’ Yes! Yes! Mothers, you shall have your children; for they shall have eternal life, for their debt is paid.”

Studying all these things and contemplating through prayer all that was transpiring made me feel better. I did not know exactly how things would unfold over the next few days but I had a calming reassurance that all would be well – somehow.

I marveled at how the Lord works through things over and over again through faith.

It always gets back to the old #1 – the first principle of the gospel.

I wouldn’t call the life and death of my grandson in this context a real trial of my faith.

I would call, instead, the grief felt by his mother and his father a greater trial of my faith.

I could not, after all, see the physical struggle of my young grandson.

But I could see the trial on the face of my daughter and I could hear it in the words of my son-in-law. Their love for their son, their willingness and desire to bring him in to the world and enjoy him as a part of each other is something so sacred between any couple.

To have that taken away is painful and confusing.

That they would go through this was a trial to me. And I wept over it.

I know my wife did as well.

As we discussed it as she packed her bag to go to Salt Lake City she expressed over and over her desire to somehow do this for Aubree – to take her place if possible, in experiencing the pain of childbirth.

And it wasn’t to deny her the experience of motherhood – it was to take away the sting of motherhood denied. My dear wife, expressing the love only a mother can feel, didn’t want Aubree to suffer from the broken heart that comes with empty arms.

That, of course, is not possible.

What we were about to learn from Aubree – and she has always taught us – is that none of that is really even necessary.

The experience, while less than ideal, need not be a bad one.

The outcome, while admittedly sad, need not be ruled by sadness.


Sandy went to Salt Lake within an hour or two of Aubree’s phone call on Tuesday night. There wasn’t even a question of where she needed to be. Off she went.

I stayed home to get the girls to school and to put in hours at work until we knew more for sure what was going on.

Tuesday night was restless for me and I spent most of it reading online, studying the scriptures, and contemplating over and over what Aubree and Ryan had likely already been thinking about for months.

I went to work on Wednesday morning wondering when the call would come to head down to Salt Lake.

By 10:30am, the message came and I was on my way.

I messaged my father and told him I needed him to assist in giving a blessing. Like always, Dad was ready and responded instantly.

What I didn’t tell him and what I could not share was that I was greatly apprehensive about giving a blessing to my daughter in this circumstance.

My heart was breaking for her. While I could understand the Lord’s rationale for taking this child home to Him I could not reconcile in my mind the heartbreak of my child.

I wasn’t sure I could place my hands on her head.

I had never felt that way about giving a blessing before.

I thought about the many, many times my father and I had given blessings to my Mother during her years of illness and there were some difficult times with those.

But nothing seemed to compare to this situation.

As I pulled into Salt Lake and turned onto North Temple to head towards Aubree and Ryan’s place I again felt a calming reassurance.

I needed to do this.

It was my responsibility.

If my daughter was to exercise her faith I needed to exercise my own.

I was relieved to arrive to find Ryan’s parents already there, and a light spirit of love was felt when I entered the home.

Aubree was warm and smiled broadly in seeing me. How was it she was making me feel better?

It was also reassuring to me to be reunited with Sandy.

How I had missed her the past 12 hours or so.

It dawned on me then this wasn’t just an experience in parenting for only Aubree and Ryan. As a couple, Sandy and I were breaking new ground – again.

Dad showed up a short while later and just his being there helped to ease the inner turmoil even more. I was nervous and I felt that if I messed up Dad could save the day.

Of the blessing itself I will only say this, out of respect for the sacred nature of that event: I felt it was one of those rare moments of pure revelation in my life.

I cannot recall what exactly was said, only that I felt overcome with…light.

After Aubree received a blessing, Ryan’s father gave him a blessing. It was a moment of watching the patriarchal order of the priesthood work as the Lord designed it.

I felt the eyes and presence of many in that room – some I knew and others I did not know but presume were of Ryan’s family.

And that was another great thing that dawned on me throughout all this: this was a great, inclusive event.

It wasn’t limited to just Aubree and Ryan. We were not, as their parents, the only ones hovering in concern near them. There were many there.

Aubree was in no rush to get on with things. After the blessings and final packing of bags we headed out for a brief lunch before going on to the hospital.


I have a lot of experience sitting in hospital waiting rooms. What made this experience so different, and frankly, enjoyable, was talking with Ryan’s parents.

They are tremendous people. I found much in common with them concerning the state of modern parenting and the parallel experiences we have had in bringing up our large families. They know the struggle all too well.

I also came to greatly admire their love for their son, and their hope in his future. It gave me great reassurance to hear them express their love for Aubree and how they see the two of them as a couple. Odd as it is to say, it felt good to know there are others who see and feel exactly as Sandy and I do about our families. We are not alone.

Meanwhile, Aubree and Ryan attended to the paperwork and got settled into their room.

After a while we were invited in and we heard the instruction and information given about what they would go through. The experience would be same as a normal delivery in many respects, and very different in other respects.

What was clear was that it would take a long time to resolve. And part of the conversations turned, for the first time, of a funeral for the baby.

This would give me much to think about on the way back to Cache Valley.


I went back home because that’s where Madelyn and Emma were. We practically abandoned them on Tuesday and Wednesday. They’re big girls and can take care of themselves but being the end of the school year they also have a lot going on.

I needed to get home to check in with them and see where things stood.

Of course, they wanted news. All my children did.

We burned up the messaging apps and social media channels at all hours to keep each other updated.

It reminded me, in a way, of what we had gone through last summer when Allie had a sudden medical crisis that put her in surgery and in the hospital for a time.

Everything stopped and the talk among the siblings was nothing but love and concern. They needed to know and they needed to be there.

I got little sleep that night between those messages and the messages I was expecting from my wife.

We didn’t know how long the medication they gave Aubree would take to work. We were told that once it kicked in, things would happen fast. But it could take from 6 to 24 hours for things to kick-in.

For so many long hours the message was, “No news, Honey”.

Then, the next day, Thursday May 10th, around 1:30 pm, I got the urgent message – “Aubree’s water broke – message the kids and my mother for me”.

So I did as I was told.

It was like lighting a match to parched brush. The messages from my children lit up my screen with a billion questions.

But among the incoming barrage there was just one other message stood out as it came in around 2pm.

“He’s here. He’s beautiful. And Aubree is fine.”

I jumped in the shower and within a short amount of time I was headed to Salt Lake, this time with two stowaways in Madelyn and Maggie, who dropped everything they were doing because they just had to be there.

When we arrived – with a smoking car, by the way – we were met by Allie, Sandy and Ryan’s parents already there with Ryan and Aubree.

It was a room filled with great energy – smiles, laughter and warm feelings.

I got a chance to peer into the face of my third grandson. He was all there.

Yes, he clearly had indications of his genetic anomalies. But just as clearly he was not there in that little body. I was struck immediately with a witness that his little tabernacle had served a useful purpose and that its mission was complete.

But from Aubree and Ryan – as was their right – I heard too of another side to the story. They had received a witness of him – young, strong, tall – sometime during the experience in bringing forth Quin’s body from the womb.

What a merciful gift – a gift that brought all the smiles and love I was feeling in the room.

Ryan’s parents were soon to leave.

They had been there the whole time and needed to get back to Idaho. So the talk soon turned to giving the baby a name and a blessing.

This too, was something I had studied.

The Church handbook instructs that it is appropriate in the case of stillborn child to do this.

The method is slightly different. Instead of naming the baby as he would be known upon the records of the Church it states we should declare his name as it will be known upon the records of the family.

I love that.

So many depend upon the Church for their record keeping.

The Church keeps records as part of the Lord’s direction in “keeping a house of order”. The Church’s primary mission is to build up the Kingdom of God and thus ordinances are required and records are kept of those ordinances.

Quin would require no ordinances. Without that, there are no records kept of him in the Church.

His name and place cannot be forgotten. It falls then on the family, as it always has and as it ultimately will.

The Church has its place in the record keeping of the family but ultimately, if we are to be redeemed and exalted as families, it will be our records that are paramount.

The family records are the reason why Lehi sent his sons back to Jerusalem.

Adam and his family kept records, “And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration;” (Moses 6:5)

The Prophet Joseph Smith foresaw our duty: “The great day of the Lord is at hand …, ” he said. “Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter‑day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.”

Quin is a reminder, to me, of the vital importance of our family record.

Typically, a baby blessing provides an opportunity to pronounce blessings that highlight the mortal path. This is an appropriate use of Priesthood power.

But how do you bless an infant who has already passed on from this life?

This was opportunity given to me as Ryan’s father and I took the tiny, tiny body of Quin into our hands.

I could not help but recall President Nelson’s most recent admonition concerning the use of priesthood power in blessing babies: “Brethren, we hold the holy priesthood of God! We have His authority to bless His people. Just think of the remarkable assurance the Lord gave us when He said, “Whomsoever you bless I will bless.”

In that tender moment, contemplating on my grandson and where he was as his brief mortal mission concluded, I was filled with two thoughts: family and resurrection.

Speaking of the resurrection, President Joseph Fielding Smith said “that these little ones will receive a resurrection and then belong to us.”

To that end, Quin was blessed to be able to claim his body on the morning of the first resurrection.

But more importantly, Quin was also blessed in regards to his family.

Having passed through the veil he was now in company with all of his family on every side that has come before him – except of those of us here still in mortality.

What an unusual reversal of the natural order.

He will know our ancients. There is Priesthood organization of the family there and he will operate under its direction.

While absent of his mother he will be kept by generations of grandmothers.

Of all the sacred work that goes on there we cannot possibly know the part Quin will play. But he was blessed to learn his place and to do his part.

This story, of course, is not over. There is much family history here yet to go through and to record.

I am grateful for the blessings of this week. It has been an experience like no other I have had as a father and grandfather. It has been humbling and centering in many respects.

I have a deep and abiding love for all my children. They give me great joy. I think of each of them more in eternal terms than in any other way.

That thought, in their youth, I know makes some of the uncomfortable.

I pray that in time they will all come to know and understand those feelings. I know as they bring their own children into the world they come to understand that level of love.

I know Aubree feels it keenly.

It has been a joy to see her wonder in discovery through the blessings of motherhood. I always pictured her a Mom, as I have all my daughters, because of their natural greatness as daughters of God.

But I’m not sure how they have pictured the same in themselves.

Watching Aubree throughout this process has been a joy to me because it was sweeter than she anticipated, and deeper than she knew it would be.

That love, even when the outcome is not entirely as desired brought to her whole new dimensions of knowing herself, knowing love and knowing Heavenly Father.

If that alone is what Quin’s brief season of life taught us, it is enough.

Of course, it is so much more.

Jeff Westover
Jeff Westover

Husband, father, Latter-day Saint, 11th generation American, and web geek currently residing in Smithfield, Utah. Please visit my website at

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