Capt. DeAnna Street of the Salvation Army. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover)

LEWISTON — In the summer of 2011, DeAnna Street and her husband, Chris, were about to enter their second year of seminary, studying to be pastors, and she was six months pregnant with their second child when an excruciating headache sent her to the emergency room in the middle of the night.

Doctors quickly diagnosed severe pre-eclampsia, spiked blood pressure that put both of their lives at risk. They had to perform an emergency C-section, now.

“It was to the point where I was either going to have a stroke, or the baby and I were going to die,” said Street, 31.

Madison was born weighing 1 pound 3 ounces, 16 weeks early.

“She was a fighter,” said Street.

Street had grown up in New York, the daughter of pastors in the Salvation Army. She and Chris met at a school for youth pastors. They wanted a big family, and they had their faith.

They didn’t know it was about to be tested.

“I’ve grown up in the church,” said Street. “I knew all the Bible stories, I knew all the Scripture verses, the right things to say, all that stuff, but there was a difference between knowing it and reciting it and actually believing it.”

When Madison was 2 days old, Street encouraged Chris to take their toddler, Rachel, to a family wedding while she stayed in the hospital with Madison in the newborn intensive care unit.

DeAnna Street and her daughter Rachel visit the grave her of younger daughter, Madison. (Submitted photo)

She’d just returned to her own room when a nurse burst in yelling “CPR!” and a second nurse “threw me in a wheelchair and literally just took off with me to the NICU. Thankfully my parents were with me so I wasn’t alone,” Street said. “They bring me into the NICU and I just heard the doctor say, ‘There wasn’t anything we could do.’ I literally go in as she’s flatlining.

“It was one of those moments were everything happens in extra slow motion. It was sort of almost like I wasn’t in my body anymore. I remember hearing this gut-wrenching scream and then I realized, ‘that’s coming from me.’”

Street would learn that her daughter suffocated from a pulmonary embolism after she tried to breathe on her own.

“It was the hardest moment of my life, followed by I then pick up the phone and call my husband and tell him our daughter just died,” said Street.

Madison was born on June 30 and died July 2. The months that followed were rough, and angry.

“I didn’t understand how the Lord could let this happen, why He would let it happen,” said Street. “I had given up my entire life to follow His calling, so it wasn’t fair that He would then take away my joy, my dream.”

She blamed herself. When a medical issue three years later meant having a hysterectomy, “again, it was one of those, ‘Why me?’ My entire dream for my life was I want to be a mom, I wanted a big family and I felt like God just ripped that all away from me.”

With a lot of time, and a lot of trust, Street said she came to realize, “Why not me?”

“Even though I couldn’t see how God was good, even though I couldn’t feel his love at that moment, I had to really rely on my faith and remind myself, even though life hurts, and even though it seems like I’m never going to get out of this grief and this mourning, that God was still bigger than that and that God still had a reason and a purpose for everything that I was going through,” Street said. “Not only that, but he still had hope for me. Just because we buried her and said goodbye, that’s not forever, it’s temporary, it’s a comma, and then we’ll continue the story when I get to heaven and spend the rest of eternity with her.”

Like her parents, DeAnna and Chris both graduated from seminary and became pastors in the Salvation Army. After a five-year assignment in Vermont, they were assigned to Lewiston over the summer. From a Park Street office, they and a team of volunteers help close to 400 families a month with food through a soup kitchen and food pantry.

One of them preaches at services on Sunday with 65 to 7o congregants. The church is part of the Protestant denomination.

These days when she and Rachel, now 9, see a pink or purple sky, they call it a “Maddy sky.”

“We say that’s our daughter reminding us that she loves us, she’s safe, she’s here,” said Street.

She believes one of the “Why me?” reasons may be that the experience has helped her minister to women who have lost children or are going through a similar experience.

Madison’s brief life deeply impacted Street’s entire family. It’s given her perspective to talk to other parents. And it brought friends whom the couple hadn’t talked to in years back into their lives.

“She was a fighter, for two days, she changed my world,” said Street. “Now for the past seven years, she continues to change it. She continues to give me new reasons to smile again.

“A lot of people don’t think pastors go through things, but we do,” she said. “Being a Christian doesn’t mean we don’t go through pain; it just means, when we go through those journeys, we’re not alone.”

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