Remembering on Infant Loss Awareness Day

SONY DSCMy mom gave me a stuffed animal monkey when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. A few weeks later I would hold this little monkey as we lost our first baby, thinking of all the things we’d never get to experience. Never would I have guessed the years would add two more babies to that list.

Today is Infant Loss Awareness Day. One in four women experience infant loss (miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death). It’s a staggering number for a topic that doesn’t get talked about much. Today I’ll be sharing a bit of my story—the grief, the journey to healing, pregnancy after miscarriage, and why so many of us are talking about it. It doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.

Why do we share?

These babies are real. They may not have been wrapped in blankets snuggled in arms of love or breathed on their own, but they were ours and their hearts beat inside of us. Woven together in our innermost being they bore the mark of their Creator, whether their lives lasted 9 weeks, 19 weeks, 39 weeks, 2 hours, or 3 days. We share because we want you to know they existed. They’re real.

Wearing the badge of 1 in 4, women often feel the weight of being the sole bearer of their remembrance. If we don’t remember them, who will?

We don’t share our pregnancies before 12 weeks to make you uncomfortable. We share because we know life is short. We don’t share our losses for a pat on the back for bravery or even for your sympathy. We share because we want your empathy, your understanding (this could be you—your sister, co-worker, best friend, your mother). We share because we want to remember our children who’ve left no mark on the world. We share because we want to know we’re not alone.

We had lots of plans for our first 5 years of marriage. Children were 2-3 years into that plan, so when we found ourselves married for 5 months and pregnant it was a surprise. A welcome surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. It came as a shock when two months later I began to miscarry. I knew it happened to some women, I just never guessed it would happen to me.

I went through the stereotypical cycle of grief—denial, bitterness, anger, and on. Denial to the point I was convinced the doctor and the blood tests were wrong and I was still pregnant. It didn’t help that the pregnancy symptoms didn’t exit as soon as the baby did. It was two weeks before I could even confess this to my husband.

I remember the day the anger broke. An older family friend stopped me at church one day, she’d never been able to have children herself, and all she said was, “I just remember getting to the point where I wanted to go to a baby shower and be happy for the person.” It didn’t change my situation, but it broke something in me and I realized I wanted that too. Being bitter and angry is exhausting.

I came out of that season with a greater trust that God was good…even in this God was good. I believed it to my core.

Thanksgiving a few years later, with a 3 year old and 10 month old, my family pointed out my exhaustion seemed to be more the pregnancy variety than the general motherhood kind. Sure enough I got home and the test was positive. I was about 8 weeks along.

The first week of December I miscarried that baby. I was in utter shock. I’d already had my miscarriage. This wasn’t suppose to happen again. It was Christmas. We were getting ready to visit family on both coasts for 6 weeks. We were going to Disneyland. Losing another baby wasn’t part of the plan.

I slowly realized I had made a one sided deal with God. I had my pocket testimony, my experience to be able to comfort others. I wouldn’t have worded it then, but I thought I had “learned my lesson” and God was done dealing out pain.

I didn’t know what to do, so I shoved it all down and tried to be happy. It was this day at the beach (pictured) nearly 8 weeks later that I felt anything. The water was awakeningly frigid, my boys were experiencing their first touch of the Pacific. It was a spark of hope, the first light of joy. I wasn’t so naive anymore to think that pain and suffering was a one time deal. I began to pour myself into the God who would heal all things, wipe every tear, render every wrong right, and be hailed as “Worthy!” Life wasn’t so much happy-go-lucky anymore as it was deep mysteries to be pondered.

A few years later, mom of a 5, 3, and 1-year-old, I found out I was pregnant again. The same day as a dear friend. We instantly began to imagine growing babies together. A week later I lost mine. This was the hardest yet, not just because I watched my friend’s pregnancy, but it was the first time I really began to ask the question, “Why?”

Why me, God? Why again? How many more times? What other pain do you have for me? Why do You heal some and not others? Why do You have the power to heal—with just a word You could do it, why do you choose not to?

It felt like everywhere I looked in my real-life community and online there was story after story of God healing and answering prayers. Why didn’t he do that for me?

All I could cling to was Peter’s words, “Where shall we go? You alone have the words of life.” I poured myself into the words of the old dead guys, stories of depression and despair where God still loved and led his people. I listened to songs of brokenness and trust, hopelessness and faintest light. I needed to know even this was broken I wasn’t alone.

They call a baby born after a loss a rainbow baby. I’ve got a full rainbow. It’s a hard one to swallow. It’s a mix of grief and blessings knowing if the babies I lost had lived I wouldn’t have two (almost three!) of my children. I’ve struggled with immense guilt of loving the ones I’ve lost, wishing to meet them and loving the ones here.

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But a rainbow…is a sign of God’s covenant to keep His promises. And sometimes those promises are hard. Sometimes those promises mean heartache and struggle, but—He is still who He says he is.

I’ve been reading Jeremiah this week and over and over God tells his displaced people, “I will restore your fortunes” (Jer. 27-31). “I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

It’s bittersweet. The pain and the joy co-mingled. Part of me doesn’t want to accept good from the hand that allows pain. But, I always go back to this…”I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who You are—You have a father’s heart and a love that’s wild, and you know what it’s like to lose a child” (JJ Heller, “Who You Are”).

There will be a day we’ll stand in the Kingdom of Light and all will be made new, all will be redeemed. No more death or mourning or tears. Fortunes will be restored.

Addison Justice. Joseph Allen. Otto Augustus.

Jordan Ebenezer. Olivia Jane. Riley Glory. Victoria Irene.

Why talk about infant loss and grieving?

We need to know we’re not alone. We feel alone so often. We need a culture that’s willing to talk about grief and enter into pain. We often don’t know how to help ourselves. Our grief is often tempered against a time limit—aren’t you over this yet? is the message we get. No, we’re not over losing our children. I doubt we’ll ever be.

But…we want to know how to live in this new normal. How to experience joy and pain without denying one over the other. We long for fullness of life, but are often sucker punched with grief out of nowhere. We need a community and culture that’s willing to acknowledge this dichotomy. That will talk about it.

And if we don’t? We’ll continue leaving generations of women to keep their loss quiet, to fend for themselves in pain, to struggle to find their way out of the darkness on their own. We’ll continue to leave mothers bearing the scars of loving the lost and the living and the guilt that’s so warped between the two. We’ll leave children missing chunks of their childhood, whole pieces of their mothers from the pain and struggle of daily functioning after loss, simply because it’s easier to not talk about it.

There is no one size fits all action plan and I don’t know what it’d even look like, but we do have a voice. And as painful as it is to share the loss of our children, the grief we bear, and the mistakes we’ve made floundering in this unknown territory, we need to talk about it. Infant loss won’t be eradicated, but we still want to live. We want to be happy without denying what we’ve lost.

The darkness cannot be made light unless someone is first willing to light the candle. And there’s a throng of us holding out our candles.

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Miscarriage: What to Say?

Lingering Grief of the Named Unspoken

Coming Up for Air: Facing the Deadness Because He Lives

The Journey of Miscarriage: Traveling from Risk to Grief to Bitterness to Good

Songs for the Brokenhearted

The Willingness of Motherhood

Motherhood is a Risk

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Miscarriage: What to Say?

In our miscarriage story, I shared how I felt lonely and that few people spoke with me about it. It was painful. At times it made me feel that my family and friends didn’t care. As I began to let go of my bitterness, I stopped holding these people to a standard of giving me comfort. I forgave.

But I also realized something. About a month after the woman stopped me in the hall at church, my sister-in-law spoke to me after a church function with another women by her side (this woman had 5 miscarriages before having her first child). She apologized for not saying anything or asking me how I was dealing with the miscarriage. She couldn’t imagine what I was going through or what it was like to lose a child….she didn’t know what to say.

For some reason compassion swelled in my heart. I was blessed and freed by her apology. But it also opened up my eyes to the other side of a miscarriage. Many people keep quiet simply because they don’t know what to say. To be honest, I know I would have been in the same boat prior to losing Addison.

This is one of the reasons why I am open to sharing about my experience with losing a baby. After we had our miscarriage it seemed women came out of the woodwork saying they’d had a miscarriage too. Some statistics say that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Still so many women say nothing of their experiences because grief hurts. Love is risky.

The problem with this is women grieving a miscarriage feel they’re alone. They need to be heard. They need to hear the experiences of other women. Now, when I meet a woman who’s had a miscarriage and I share I have too, there’s an instant bond. I don’t have to tell her what I experienced or how I felt. She’s been there too. She understands.

But where does that leave those who haven’t lost? I believe, they still have a role to play.

What do you say when a family loses a baby?

  1. The most important thing is to say something. That family, the woman especially, needs to know you’re there and willing to hear. So many people often avoid those experiencing loss, because it’s uncomfortable and they feel ill-equipped to help if they haven’t experienced the same thing.
  2. Be wise in your words. While most of the time saying something is better than saying nothing, be careful what you say. Comments about “Maybe next time will be better” or “I guess this wasn’t God’s timing” do little to help and can cause the couple more pain. Those statements feel insensitive and seem to diminish the pain of the family.
  3. Help them. Offer to cook dinner. If they have already collected baby items, gently ask them what their plans are for them, if they need help going through them, or offer to store the items for them. If they have older children, offer to babysit so that the parents can take time to talk and process their grief together.
  4. Grieve alongside them. If the family choose to name the baby call the child by its name. If there’s a funeral or memorial service–big or small–join in. This lets the family know you see their pain, you support them, and confirms in their hearts and minds that this baby was real.
  5. Understand that a new baby doesn’t replace the one they’ve lost. For us, Joey is a huge and precious blessing that we cherish all the more because we lost Addison. But in no way, shape, or form does Joey replace Addison. We still miss that child. We still grieve for that baby. Addison was a person as much as Joey is and neither can be replaced by another.
  6. Pray for them. Pray that God would heal their hearts and that they would see His character and perspective. Be gentle and patient here. Grieving is a process that ebbs and flows, sometimes it moves forward and then falls back. Don’t expect everything to be “back to normal” in a few weeks or month. Healing takes time.

I am so grateful for the outpouring of support I have received in sharing our miscarriage story. So many women have shared their experiences and how God has healed them.

I know there are so many ways to help and support those healing from a miscarriage. Let’s stop grieving from being an isolated experience. Help me help others know how to respond to a miscarriage or other loss, so…

If you have experienced a loss what is the best thing someone did or said as you grieved and healed?

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Motherhood & Spiritual Disciplines

Motherhood & Spiritual DisciplinesThis is how most mornings look around here. Some time between 6:30am and 7am I’m joined by at least one or two kids (this morning all four jumped in bed). I read my Bible between snuggles, baby dolls, blankets, often Legos, breakfast requests (Can I have my Valentine candy? No.), and voices that are not quite morning tones, but still I read and try to journal notes if someone hasn’t already stolen my pen.

There have been seasons I have allowed myself to get really frustrated that this “quiet time” (a phrase that can be so unhelpful) was regularly interrupted by my early morning risers and I struggled to find other times in the day to soak in the Word. I longed for the days when getting up early meant 6am and I could spend a solid 30 minutes to an hour to read and study the Word and pray in silence as it’s “suppose to be.”

Let’s take a detour here. Quiet time? It’s a phrase widely used across AmericanChristendom, coined to describe a spiritual discipline of beginning the day reading the Scriptures and in prayer. It comes with the connotation that this is the ultimate ideal. Before you attend to anything else in your day, you should be in the Word and praying. This is what godly people do if they really love the Lord. You’re giving the Lord your first fruits, filling up for the day, you’ll fail if you don’t, etc. It’s no wonder so many mothers are discouraged, disheartened, and believe they’re failing at the Christian life.

When you’re waking every few hours to nurse, rock a baby back to sleep, clean up accidents or vomit, awakened to a child standing over your bed asking for water/milk/food/a cuddle, it’s no wonder when the morning light starts to peek through they’re not ready for a morning coffee in their favorite arm chair next to a basket with their Bible, prayer journal, personal journal,  and devotional or Bible study. They’re exhausted. Nevermind that the day before they probably spent 16 hours on their feet serving their family in some capacity or another.  The thing they want and need the most–more Jesus–feels so far off in the constant demand of children and running a house. From my experience, it’s not a lack of desire that keeps women from the Word, but exhaustion and a framework of spiritual disciplines that are unhelpful.

The idea of a quiet time is good in and of itself, but the emphasis we place on it, particularly that is must happen first thing in the morning and how often the weight of sanctification is placed on that thirty minutes to an hour of time can be harmful. Strive for time spent in the Word, pray often. Yes, Jesus often went off by himself in the morning to pray and commune with the Lord, but neither of these things must happen in your first hour or two. They should permeate all of our day in different ways.

Detour ended. You may continue.

Motherhood & Spiritual Disciplines

Two things have helped me to just do it anyway, even if the circumstances aren’t my ideal.

First, a pastor’s wife I knew once told me a story about a young mom who prior to having children had long, in-depth, meditative quiet times between 1-2 hours a day and after having kids she tried to keep this discipline. She ended up putting her children in high chairs at the table, giving them snacks and toys, while she tried to have her old quiet time. They would cry and try to get out, clamoring and just being little kids. It left her exasperated. She couldn’t meet the Lord in the Word the same way as she had before, though she tried hard to force it.

I remember the pastor’s wife saying your quiet time is going to change when you have kids. It’s going to look different and that’s okay. Too often we put too much stock in what we think, or have been led to believe, a “quiet time” is suppose to look like and rather than just read the Word we get caught up in all the steps we think we’re suppose to do. Just open up your Bible and read.

Second, I’ve learned the hard way it does me no good to get ridiculously frustrated over things that are really not that important or I can’t control. Spills, messes, poop catastrophes, the crumbs after every single meal, children having needs, interruptions in my plans–and I use to let that stuff rile me up daily, to the point I felt offended that my children were, well, being children. But what good did that do me? It didn’t serve me or them. It did more to break our relationship and cause a greater divide, than endear my heart to them. Essentially, it raised a mom versus the children mentality, setting me up to fight my children rather than to love and serve them well. (And, yes, I still get frustrated and have an occasional bout of “Why me?!” along with “I’m quitting!,” but not nearly with the same regularity. Thank you, Jesus!)

My kids are early risers? So what. I’m not pulling out the Greek as much as I use to? That’s fine. Sometimes I have to reread a passage, because the noise is too loud for me to even know what I read. Other times the baby is bouncing on my lap grabbing the pages of my Bible. I may read a passage and have no idea what it means or how it connects to the bigger picture. If I’m doing a study, I may not get to all the questions I want to or even understand the question if little ones are hanging over me. Sometimes I feel I’ve lost some of my critical thinking brain cells in mothering. That’s okay.

These things will pass, but don’t wait until they’re gone to develop a spiritual discipline of reading the Word. It’s going to be imperfect and that’s okay. You may not feel warm fuzzies and the fire on the mountain. You’re reading the Word. You’re making a habit. Even if you feel you’re getting nothing out of it, do it. It’s not pointless. You’re laying the brickwork in your own heart that this is where you come to feast. These Words, these pages are the brook, the well to quench your thirst. No broken cisterns here, this is the green pasture of rest. These are the words of life and they are the light of men.

Don’t wait for your ideal circumstance to read the Word regularly. Do it anyways.

There’s so much more to say, but if you’re a mom you probably have a little one calling for you right now. Mine are about ready for lunch. So, meet back here in a day or two? We’ll talk about some practical resources and how to incorporate the Word and prayer into the rhythm of our days.

Don’t lose heart. He is faithful to keep you.

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Advent Resources for Families

Advent Resources for FamiliesIf you know me, then you know Advent is one of my favorite times of year and I will talk your ear off about how great Advent is.

I feel deeply that advent calls to the heart of a sojourner. The longing, the hopeful expectation, the crossroads of already, but not yet. It’s a mournful, yet still hopeful cry that says, Come, Lord Jesus, come!

The desire for all to be made whole, for Christ to come again and call his people home. Advent is for the wait. The reminder that as we come to celebrate Christ’s first advent, his birth as a baby, we are to look forward to his future promises in his second advent. We live in this tension of promises received, but still lacking our complete glorification.

We sing,

Come, thou long expected Jesus,

Born to set They people free;

from our fears and sins release us,

let us find our rest in thee.

It’s a beautiful season.

Advent Resources for FamiliesAdvent Resources

Advent has definitely seen a resurgence in some Protestant denominations, but mostly in the evangelical camp. I’m glad our subculture is beginning to remember liturgy and traditions can be helpful means of remembering and teaching Christ in the life of the Church. I’ve found CRI Voice to be a good introduction to the season of Advent.

I wanted to share a few Advent resources and traditions we’ve done throughout the years, as well as a few new things I’ve found.

The Jesus Storybook Bible & the Jesse Tree

When my children were young, I tried reading through Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree devotional and hung the printable ornaments. The length of those devotions were a bit long for the little ones, but the ornaments were a favorite and became known as “hanging promises.”  We eventually started reading related portions of The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Many families have found this works well for them and you can find a variety of Advent reading plans to go along with The Jesus Storybook Bible. You can find more ideas here.

Advent Wreath & Candles

Our advent wreath is one of my favorite parts of the season. It’s a beautiful reminder of how Jesus is the light of the world and in light the darkness scatters. We get to see that beautiful truth as we light a new candle each week. At the beginning of Advent, it’s dark and we can hardly see the little faces peering around the table, but by Christmas Day the light is bright enough to shine throughout the room.

It’s a simple and beautiful way to show our children how Jesus makes the darkness flee and how darkness can be a representation of sin and in Jesus’s redemption that darkness flees.

The circle wreath reminds us God is eternal and is mercy and love is unending. The four candles on the wreath stand for the four hundred years between the prophets and the coming of Christ. They also symbolize the hope, love, joy, and peace Jesus brings (as well as many other things). Three of the candles are purple, symbolizing royalty, and one pink (usually used for the third week). The white center candle, called the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Day in celebration of Jesus entering the world and being the Light of the World.

There’s plenty of options when it comes to Advent wreaths. I bought a frame from Hobby Lobby, stuck it on a plain wreath, and added a few sparkles here and there.

Advent Resources for FamiliesAdvent Music

In some traditions, people withhold from playing Christmas carols, hymns, and songs until Christmas Day, which is the first day of Christmas and continues until Epiphany. The idea is to keep in the remembrance and mood, so to speak, of the Advent season, the already, but not yet, waiting to sing the more celebratory songs once Christmas arrives.

In our house we play both, but I do tend to lean more toward Advent songs in the first few weeks. Here’s a list of Advent songs.

I’m a big fan of Spotify, so of course I have our own Advent playlist on there. My goal is to find the perfect version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, so right now there’s about 20 different versions. I might be exaggerated a little. You’ll also notice a lot of Andrew Peterson on my Advent playlist. These songs aren’t particularly made for Advent, but definitely have echoes of the season (I love me some AP music).

Advent Resources for FamiliesHere’s a few of my favorite Advent and Christmas albums:

Most of these are on Spotify and Amazon Prime, but a few are on one or the other and Behold the Lamb is on neither. But it’s good enough, you’ll want to buy it anyway. ;)

Traveler's Journey: Advent Letters for Young SojournersTraveler’s Letters

This is one of my children’s favorite things. One year we received a package on our doorstep from someone named Traveler. Inside the package were Advent candles, a few letters (and more came later), and a book, Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress for children.

Traveler's Journey: Advent Letters for Young SojournersIt’s been such a treasure and wonder for our family to dig into the Advent season as a sojourner and for our little ones to begin to understand this life of faith is a journey and to long for Jesus’ kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven as we wait for Christ to come again.Advent Resources for Families

You can find all the letters ordered and compiled, along with a few of our favorite hymns and poems below.

Traveler’s Journey: Advent Letters for Young Sojourners

Advent Resources for FamiliesAdvent Books

There are so many Advent devotionals and readings out there I’m sure to leave out a few good ones. This is a list of Advent books that either I’ve used or have heard great things about from friends.

If this is your first time observing Advent or you’re looking to try something new, I hope you find something that works for you. But even more I hope you know the love of Christ and are encouraged to pursue him in the longing and waiting of Advent.

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Traveling from Risk to Grief to Bitter to Good

***FYI: I wrote this 6-8 years ago, it’s a reflection of my first miscarriage in 2007 and the months that followed. It’s unedited in places, a bit raw and TMI, but real nonetheless.***

A Risky Business

We weren’t planning on getting pregnant. At least not yet.

I realized I hadn’t been feeling well and it wasn’t going away. Then the wheels in my head began turning and something clicked, “Maybe I’m pregnant.” Joe wanted to wait to take a test and I was ready to go buy one that second. We waited a few more days until my birthday to take the test. I was so anxious and excited that I woke up at 4:45am and took the test. Waited those agonizingly few minutes…

There were two lines. One not as dark as the other, but there just the same. We were pregnant! Of course, like any good wife I woke up my husband to tell him. He wasn’t so excited…at least not at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Since the result was a faint positive I made an appointment to take another test at the hospital. I took the second pregnancy test the next day. A few days later the results came back with another faint positive. That night we told our family.

A few days later my doctor ordered a blood test. My hCG’s weren’t increasing normally. So I took one and then a few days later another and then another. My hCG’s were only going up a 100 or so a day, when they’re supposed to double each day. Looking back now, that should have been a sign for concern. But I wasn’t. I was on cloud 9 and my mom had had low hCG’s with her pregnancies we all were fine. All in all, I took six pregnancies tests and all came back positive. I wasn’t worried.

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We were so excited to start our little family. And then it happened. My mom had been in town for a business trip and was getting ready to leave. Joe and I took a walk before work together. And I started spotting. It wasn’t much. It seemed a normal amount from what I had heard and read, so we preceded with our day as normal.

I got to work, started to settle in, and headed to the bathroom before my students showed up. The spotting wasn’t so little anymore and I knew something was wrong. I was bleeding. I was beginning to lose my baby. I called my mom. She was just getting ready to board the plane. She asked if I wanted her to stay and I said yes. She was on her way back to our apartment. I called Joe and told him to come home.

I cried, pulled myself together a bit, and headed to the office. I got to my boss’s office and told her what was happening. We cried together, she prayed for me, and I stayed in her office until there was a break in the flow of kids arriving and then drove home to meet my mom and Joe. It was a whirlwind.

We all got there within a few minutes of each other. I called my OB and told him what was happening. He said he was sorry and that it sounded like I was having a miscarriage. The only thing he offered me was if the pain was too much I could go to the ER and they’d give me something to help pass the baby. He scheduled an ultrasound for Monday.

I knew I wouldn’t go to the ER. I was going to hold onto every chance that this baby would survive.

So we sat, prayed, ate, and watched Pride & Prejudice–I remember this, because I started with one version and my mom and Joe wanted to switch to a newer version.

By the next day I was feeling more hopeful. My pain was less and I knew God wasn’t going to take my baby. I prayed more that weekend than I have in my entire life. I sang songs. I read Scripture. I had so much faith that our baby was still alive or even if it wasn’t God had the power to revive it.

Saturday we went to lunch with a few friends, because staying at home the only thing to focus on was what was happening to my body. We went to Soup Plantation. We were having fun. Then I had to go to the bathroom.

I sat down and went to the bathroom. Then I sneezed and felt something drop. I looked and there it was…a red mass. So I did what any mother would do, I wrapped it up, put it in my purse, and went back to the table. The look on my face must have spoke volumes, because both Joe and my  mom said, “Is it time to go?”

Everything was a blur after that. I still prayed, I still hoped, I still thought everything was going to be okay. Deep down I knew it wasn’t.

On Monday, we went in for the ultrasound. Joe held my hand as we watched the screen.Nothing. So the doctor did an internal ultrasound. Nothing.

I could feel myself zip up any emotion that might have tried to squeeze out.

He said something about being sorry and these things happen.

My uterus was still enlarged. What I passed was the placenta. Our baby had stopped growing.

No tears. I was fine. It just happens.

I walked out of the examination room fine. No tears. I meet my mom in the waiting room and said something. Shrugged my shoulders and walked toward the elevator.

I was fine. It happens. No tears.

Grieving

September 17, 2007. That was the day we officially knew we had lost our baby. Life continued and I went back to work, but things weren’t the same.

People offered their condolences.

“I’m so sorry.”

“These things happen.”

“I’ve been there too.”

“I guess it just wasn’t God’s timing.”

It was hard to hear, but even harder to respond. I didn’t really know what to say. When we shared our loss with the youth kids we worked with a church there were a few who didn’t understand. One boy had never heard of a miscarriage and asked me if I was joking. Another of our students has some mental disabilities and for weeks would follow me around and ask me what happened to the baby. Finally, Joe had to firmly tell him to stop talking to me about the baby and told him it had died. For weeks after, he would just stare at me like I was the Black Death. He couldn’t comprehend how something could be growing inside of me and then stop. Never could I.

Work was hard, because I was a preschool teacher. I saw children as young as 2 1/2 to 6 years every day for 6 to 9 hours a day. Thankfully, I had not told them I was pregnant. Explaining a miscarriage to middle schoolers was hard, but to preschoolers there would have been an endless barrage of questions.

The next day at work, during our staff devotional one of the teachers read Lamentations 3:21-26 and it brought tears to my eyes. It’s a passage I would revisit numerous times in the coming months (and years).

This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, ”Therefore I have hope in Him.”

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.

Later that day I was talking to Joe on my lunch break. He began reading something to me that made me cry. It was the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism:

What is your only comfort in life and death?

That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things work together for  my salvation.

Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

A week later one of my students crawled in my lap and asked if I had a baby in my belly. It took everything in me not to cry. I knew it was God’s way of telling me it’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to be vulnerable. That night I journaled,

Lord, I don’t know what to think…I don’t even know what to say. I’m avoiding it, I know. I guess I’m ignoring what happened and am just shutting myself up from it–emotions and all things pertaining to it. I’m untouchable. At least that’s how I feel like I’m acting and responding to it and people and life…just that it doesn’t bother me. Which obviously isn’t true, but I don’t know how else to do it.

I just put on a pretty face and act like all is well and I’m doing just fine and God is good. The last part is true that I know…but I’m not sure how to appropriate that truth.

It’s true. I knew God was (and is) good in losing our baby. I believed that he would work all things together for my good. I would sing a chorus to one of the Bible songs we sang with the children. I would sing it out loud. I would sing it under my breath. I would sing it in my head.

God is good, all the time

He put His song of love in this heart of mine

God is good, He’s so good, all the time

But I didn’t yet know how to live that truth…How to make it go from knowledge I repeated to myself over and over and over to something I believed with my whole being?

How is this best for me? How is this God’s grace? I don’t understand how this works for my good and completion in Christ Jesus. I know it does. I could answer the question if someone asked…God knows what’s best for me and Joe and little Addison.

I love God and I know He loves me and He only gives the best for His children which is comforting, but how is this best?

I don’t mean it in a ‘angry-justify-yourself’ way, but a I want to know…I want to understand. I want to see how God is working this together for my good, for His purposes. I want to see His plan and appreciate it.

I also wanted to see how it ended. Where was God going with this? I knew he didn’t have (and likely wasn’t going to) show me the end result–the healing. But I thought if He did then the right now would be easier to handle.

That night I began processing my grief in its earliest form.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

What do I hope for? Am I sure of it?

What do I not see? Am I certain of it?

I don’t know what to think really. But this is what I do know:

  • That God is not doing this because He does not love me, but because He does love me. (Even if I don’t understand that…)
  • God is doing this so that I become more like Jesus. (Even though this is a mystery to me.)

Bitterness to Healing

As the weeks passed, I began to process what had happened little by little. But life had changed.

We tried to carry on with life as usual. Work, church, youth group, prayer teams, care group. But things slowly started to fall apart. I went to work and did my job, but with little enthusiasm. We slowly dropped events on our calendar. It was painful to see kids. It was painful to see parents leave their children for hours at a time when I had just lost mine and all I wanted was a child.

I’d come home and instead of living life, I’d watch TV and eat. Joe and I watched an hour or two of TV a week before the miscarriage. Afterward, we’d eat dinner in front of the TV and spend at least 3 hours there. It was a coping mechanism. I didn’t have to think about real life in front of the TV. I didn’t have to deal with my emotions. I just had to figure out what the missing letters were on Wheel of Fortune. In the next few months I’d gain at least 10lbs (how little that seems now!).

In the month after our miscarriage, I had been hiding something from Joe. I thought I was still pregnant. An outsider might recognize this as the denial stage in grieving, but I had convinced myself I was still pregnant…that the doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. It was all a big mistake.

When I shared with Joe that I still had all the symptoms of pregnancy–tired, nauseous, hungry, weight gain–he gently told me these were also signs of depression. I started to cry. It was time to ask for help.

It felt like everything was falling down around me. I was exhausted from acting like everything was fine. I was discontent, unhappy, and indifferent to life.

One of the reasons I struggled with asking for help (other than I’m a stubborn, proud sinner) was few people even asked how I was doing in regard to the miscarriage. So few that one hand had too many fingers to count them. Other than Joe, the only people who ever said anything were my mom, my boss, and a single friend. I felt lonely.

I felt like no one really considered my baby real and a loss. To me it was huge, but the lack of voice in my family and friends said the opposite. It got back to me that an older family member was told we weren’t ever really pregnant, because that would be easier for them than the truth. I struggled with thinking that maybe others didn’t really consider our miscarriage a loss because it was so early (9 weeks) or there wasn’t a physical baby to hold or there was no proof other than my own word. I felt alone in carrying the burden of our miscarriage. I felt that Joe and I had to be the ones to make Addison’s existence real.

It was then that I was surrounded by a group of amazing and dearly loved women in prayer. My heart was not only encouraged, but I didn’t have to carry the burden of grieving alone. These women were willing to journey with me.

Things weren’t fixed after this. My struggles were revealed. God’s goodness was reinforced. I had women who were regularly and purposefully asking me how I was doing. But life still happened. In late October we were evacuated due to fires. That same day I shared publicly the question that was burning within me: Am I a Mother? and my fears for Mother’s Day. Even though it was months away our baby would have been a few weeks old and we’d already talked about how wonderful it would be to be able to take part in the baby dedications on that day. Then in November/December we went to Ethiopia for a mission trip, where God continued to engrave on my heart His goodness.

One thing I’ve neglected to share up to this point is the condition of  my heart. Yes, I was hiding. I was pretending everything was okay. I was depressed, but I was also bitter.

I didn’t know how to respond and bitterness is what came out.

Bitterness unchecked is suffocating.

It consumed my life. Maybe that’s why I had to repeat to myself that God is good all the time. I struggled with understanding His goodness and living in my bitterness.

I didn’t enjoy being around children anymore. It was only a reminder of what I lost. Baby showers were a painful experience. All the oohing and aahing as I’d sit quietly by myself fixing the food trying to hid my own tears. There were two baby showers within weeks of our miscarriage that I attended.

And then…there were all the happy pregnant women. It seemed so unfair that women who weren’t even trying to have babies or “shouldn’t” were pregnant. I was unhappy and I didn’t want others to be happy either. In some way, I felt if they were happy and had what I wanted then I could never have it too. Then there were the awkward baby conversations where I use to be included and after the miscarriage ignored.

Every day was a struggle. Every day was a battle to breath. I hated life. I hated that I lost my baby. I didn’t understand God’s purposes. I knew He was good, but still my heart screamed in agony of losing the life I never got to hold. I wanted to yell at every mother that complained about her child. I wanted to tell them to enjoy the sleepless nights, because at least that means they have a breathing, living child! I wanted people to feel my pain.

One day at church a family friend grabbed my arm as we were passing in the hall. She is a woman who has never been able to have children even though she desperately wanted them. As she took my arm and looked me in the eye she said, “I just got to the point where I wanted to be happy. I was tired of being bitter. I just wanted to be able to go to a baby shower and bless someone else.”

As simple as her statement was it rocked my world. It didn’t make everything all better, but it was the light I needed to see. I was tired of being bitter. I wanted to be happy. I didn’t want people to feel how I was feeling, because I was miserable. I wanted joy.

It was then that I purposed to repent and let go of my bitterness. It was doing nothing for me, but wrecking havoc on my life. The journey wasn’t easy, but repentance never is. The pain of losing Addison still remained, but changed. Instead of being an all-consuming, searing pain it began to morph into a holy pain. A sadness that also saw God’s goodness. His mercy. His renewal. His covenant.

Because of this I was forced to trust in God more than I had before.

Because of this I learned to say, even through tears, “You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say blessed be Your name.”

Because of this I know and have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Because of this my heart cries,

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

He is my all in all. He is my only thing. He is my life and my death. He is I AM. He knows my pain. He is not helpless, but gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love.

He sees me and holds me in the palm of His hand and there I find my comfort, my rest, and my peace as I gaze into the goodness of the Lord.

 

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