Nov 12

That Day…

It’s here. That day. Today is the one day of the year that I truly dread. It would be so much easier to just sleep through the entire day, as if it could simply be skipped over, somehow, or “missed.” Everyone else knows it as ‘Veteran’s Day.’ To me, it will always be ‘That Day.’ In about one hour (around 11:15 pm), I will be sitting here, knowing that this is the same couch I was sitting on, the same place, at the same time, on the same day…

If you’re a BabyLoss parent, you know what I’m talking about. Today is ‘That Day.’ At around 11:15 pm, we will mark the three year anniversary of our child’s death. Three years since I sat on my couch, surrounded by family, while my baby girl died in my arms, at only 7 1/2 weeks old. Three years since they came and took her lifeless body, strapped into an infant carrier, to prepare for burial. Three years since the worst day of my life.

Most of the time, I try to focus on the positive things. After watching her struggle, for two days, just to breathe, holding her tiny body upright, to relieve the pressure on her lungs, it was a genuine relief to know that her battle was over. And being able to tell our young sons that their sister is all better now…if you haven’t been there, nothing I can say will be a sufficient explanation. She is so much happier than I am, I know, and I genuinely believe that I will be with her again. I know she is in the only place where she can receive more love than she did here. And He’s taking much better care of her than I ever could. There is so much to be thankful for…

Still…

It’s a common thread, through all of the research that I have done, that it’s impossible to understand, unless you have been through it yourself. I’m not going to try explaining anything, tonight. I can’t do it effectively and I’m not really up to trying, right now. If you know, I am so, so sorry – in a way that only you can understand. If you don’t, I’m not sorry – I’m not sorry that you don’t know, I’m not sorry that I can’t effectively express this, and I’m not sorry that you cannot understand. I would not wish this on anyone. I pray fervently for empathy, but I regret any sympathetic knowledge on this subject. In spite of my own pain, tonight, if you understand, my heart hurts for you.

Most of the time, I try to stay focused on the positive. When I am faced with ‘That Day,’ however, I just try to survive. There are days when I am sad, because I will never throw a princess birthday party. There are times when the little, hand-knit sweater, with its intricate patterns and tiny sleeves – the one that would be perfect for wearing with a little church dress and the tights with the ruffles on the butt – is more than I can take. There are moments when I see my boys playing with their cousin – a little girl born in the same year – and it’s all I can do not to have a total break-down right there. Most times, I can fight the tears until the moment passes. Except on ‘That Day.’ On ‘That Day’ there is no such thing as a moment passing. I might be able to fight the tears, but I know I’m just buying time; they’ll be back. It’s just a matter of holding off the inevitable.

When I became a wife, it marked the beginning of a new string of ‘days’ for me. Without consciously making a list, I started a list of all the days, through the calendar’s passing, that I will always be aware of. I know which day my husband proposed to me. Obviously, there is our wedding day. The list grew to include the day we learned we were expecting, the day our first child was born, our next positive pregnancy test, and the birth of our second son. I even added the day we closed on our first home. While I had no guarantees, my expectations included all of those days. The next two were not expected – the days I miscarried. We added some more blessing days – the day we had another positive test and the day we learned we were having a girl – and then a whole string of painful days: the day we learned she may not be healthy, the day we received a diagnosis, the day it was confirmed…’That Day.’ When I became a mom, I never imagined my list of “mom days” would include ‘That Day.’

I don’t, for even one second, ever regret the events that led up to what happened three years ago. I constantly thank God for my children, especially my Zoe-girl. But I know that, for as long as I live, there will be a day, every year, when my mood turns dark and the positive is obscured. I will relive that awful night, sleeping in the chair, trying to determine why she wasn’t able to breathe; I will relive the following two days, huddled on my couch, propping her fragile body upright; I will relive the uncertainty of knowing that my husband, working onsite in another state, might not make it home in time; I will relive the unbearable night that she left us… For 364 days out of every year, I will refer to November 11 as her ‘Forever Day’, the day that she flew to a world beyond time. But there will be one day, that same day, that it will be something else. For one day, every year, November 11 will simply be ‘That Day.’ And it is the only day I do not want to be part of.

Happy Forever Day, my sweet Zoe-girl. Mommy loves you so much!

Nov 10

Philippians 4:7

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:7 (KJV)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”                                                                           – 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. [….] …so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”            – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17b-18 (KJV)

“But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”    – 2 Samuel 12:23 (KJV)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grace, where is thy victory?”     – 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

My prayer, as I share these words, tonight, is that you will be encouraged and that He, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be glorified. Let it be so.

November is a very hard month for us. We look forward to Thanksgiving, grateful for all the wonderful blessings of the Lord in our lives. There is a lot more to November, though, in our home. As we celebrate our blessings and thank God for His lovingkindness, we keenly feel the pain of our fallenness. You may realize that Zoe left this world in November. On the 11th, it will be 3 years since she went home. You probably are not aware that it was also in November that we lost one of her tiny siblings, who we will never meet this side of eternity. Or that it is also the month that one of her tiny cousins, also unmet here, left this world. While we are focusing on our blessings and our merciful Father, it is hard not to be distracted by our losses.

I am writing this post because I am struggling tonight. I should be sleeping. It is well past midnight and I have church in the morning. But I find myself feeling overwhelmed, unable to sleep, and in need of some catharsis. So, here I am, tacking up my thoughts, praying that they are clear enough to bring Him glory and mean something to you.

The verses that I chose, as I began my post, are verses that I have needed immeasurably, during these last five years. The “peace of God that passeth all understanding”, mentioned in the first, is what “kept my heart and mind” during our times of miscarriage, uncertainty, and loss. I knew in my heart, from the very beginning, that He was working in our circumstance, and He provided me with everything I needed. On the days when I felt like I was losing my mind, He even reminded me that He “has not given us a spirit of fear, but…of a sound mind.” Crazy isn’t part of the bargain – even when it seems like it.

When we walked through our darkest days and seasons, the Lord used passages like 1 Thessalonians 4 to comfort me, reminding me “that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope…comfort one another with these words.” My hope in Him has been, many times, my greatest strength. David understood this when he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

The last verse that I’ve shared is a bit different than the others. It’s been a great help and comfort to me, as have the rest, but it’s a little bit of a struggle, too. I fully understand, doctrinally speaking, that Christ has conquered death and the grave, taking away all power and victory from these once-powerful enemies. There is much solace there. At the same time, though, we still live in a world where they run rampant, allowed to commit atrocities that seem senseless to me. I know that it is temporary, but I am still in a place where the temporal is very real. I rejoice that my foes are conquered. But those closest to me have heard me say, at times, that, while the grave has no victory, death still retains a sting. As long as I remain separated from loved ones, there will be pain and longing. That is what I struggle with.

As a human being, there will always be spiritual struggles. Until my flesh is raised immortal and incorruptible, there will be aches and pains. I sincerely hope and pray that I am growing and changing, allowing things beyond my control to be used for the glory of the Lord. I would be lying, though, if I said that I understand. Or that I “rejoice evermore”. As grateful as I am for all of the Lord’s blessings, I am most looking forward to eternal – to having a life that is unable to be touched by the pain and longing of separation. Until then, I don’t know that I will ever be able to say that death has lost its sting. By the grace of the One who has the power to take it, though, I will live in the hope that it will. Someday. Some day.

Oct 17

Sweet Honesty

One of the things I appreciate most about children s their honesty.  They don’t have any filter at all, for the first few years. Then, when they really start thinking things through, I often find myself amazed by what I hear. Not only are they completely (sometimes brutally!) honest, but they are also sometimes shockingly insightful. And they warm my heart.

Last night, when I was putting my boys to bed, I reminded them that it was Remembrance Day. And they were exactly the way I know they are. But it still touches my heart. Our older son (who just turned 7) prayed that “all those babies” would “have a good time playing in Heaven.” He said, “I wish they could come back, but I know they can’t, so be with all of the families that miss them.” Our younger son (5 1/2) waited until we were done praying and then started singing “a lullaby for Zoe.”

We’re very open in our home, and we talk about Zoe a lot. The boys know that we lost two other babies (through miscarriage). They know that Zoe’s birthday was a few weeks ago, but they’re too young to really keep track of years or anything. So they asked, last night, how old she would be. They asked what we named the other little ones (we haven’t, officially; I always think of one of them as Olivia Hope, a name we had picked out when we had the boys). We actually had a really great talk. And, like always, they made my heart melt.

I love the questions that they ask. Like this one: “Is Zoe all better now?” Or, like a friend’s little one, who exclaimed, on her brother’s birthday, “Oh! I didn’t know that he got to have a birthday, since he’s just pretend.” (She knows he’s real, but has some trouble differentiating. Since he was the oldest, she never met him.)

I envy, sometimes, the simple, uncomplicated worldview they carry. At other times, though, my heart breaks for them. Because of the simplicity and innocence, they struggle so much wth the hard things. Zoe’s loss was especially hard on our older son, because he wasn’t able to express himself. Lots of anger. Because we were trying to protect him, he thought he was the only one who was still upset. Then, when our younger son realized that he didn’t actually remember her, he had some real difficulties. A friend’s little one, after she miscarried, was mentioning the baby so frequently that others were uncomfortable. All they know is what we tell them. They trust us. So what happens when we tell them something that doesn’t match what they see? We all have to grow up sometime. There are no good alternatives – as all of us know too well.

So, I guess what I really wanted to share, this evening, is just how much I treasure my sweet little ones. I remember the lost ones, and I try to appreciate the ones who are still in my care. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of caring for small children. They’re worth valuing and treasuring, though. We just have to remember that. While we’re remembering the ones who aren’t here, it’s important to remember the ones who are. They’re just as valuable. And they need us, too.

Oct 15

An Invitation

This is Tuesday, October 15. The United States recognizes today as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. There have been events across the nation this past weekend, offering people the opportunity to honor thier little lost ones and fellowship with others who share the scars.

October, in fact, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, declared by Ronald Reagan, during his presidency. It’s been a busy month, for me, and it’s only half over!

I wanted to let all of those who are remembering their precious little ones today know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. I am teaching my children to pray for you. You are not alone.

To that end, I would like to extend an invitation. At seven o’clock this evening, an event known as the International Wave of Light will take place. People around the world will be lighting candles, in memory of their lost infants. You are asked to leave the candle burning for at least one hour. As each time zone approaches seven, the light continues burning for the next hour. This way, a continual chain of light will burn for 24 hours. I am going to be participating in the Wave of Light, and I would like to invite you to join me. Even if you have (or are planning to) participated in an event for the Day of Remembrance, I would love to be able to share this evening with you.

I know that those of you who read and/or follow seldom post, but I’d love to know if you’re joining me.

By His grace, and for His glory.

UPDATE:

image

A small jar for my little Zoë-girl, and two even smaller ones for the precious little ones I never got to meet. If you’re reading this update, you were in my prayers today. <<Hugs>>

Oct 07

Big news!

I am so excited!  I just have to share this.  I just got a phone call.  Someone who is familiar with the ministry just called to ask for some of our resources!  Obviously, there is sadness involved, because someone they care about is experiencing loss (please pray!). But it’s a very exciting day for me. This is a big step: our first call requesting resources and materials!

God’s timing is never what I expect, and things have been all over the place this summer.  But He’s obviously doing something, so I’m excited to see what happens next.  I’m excited to have you along for this crazy ride, and appreciate your prayers more than I could ever say.  God is always working! I can’t wait to see what He does next!

May 22

The Silent Epidemic

I got up this morning and, as I often do, I checked out some of the sites that I have bookmarked as ministry resources, to see who had something new posted. One of the sites I checked out was SGM – specifically, Kelly’s blog (see link in sidebar; click on “Blog”).

In Kelly’s latest post, SGM announces the release of a new miscarriage resource (available from their website, free of cost to bereaved families), which they’ve been anticipating for some time now. I’m excited for their continued growth and development. It’s always an amazing thing to see what God is doing!

One of the things that Kelly shares, in her post, is the story of a woman named Stacie, who experienced several miscarriages early on in her marriage. I had the privelege of meeting Stacie, the last time I was at SGM, and hearing her story firsthand. It was absolutely unbelievable.

Hearing about Stacie’s experience was both heartbreaking and enraging. Even if there is disagreement about when life begins (at fertilization!) and what exactly a miscarriage is (some believe it is simply the body expelling tissue that is incompatible with the mother’s health), every miscarriage results in a woman who needs care. Even someone who does not subscribe to the sanctity of human life would surely agree that a woman deserves dignity, compassionate and comprehensive care, and acknowledgement! Many women don’t get these things, though. My own family and friends who have been through similar situations have not always, either. Just like Stacie.

I think, maybe, what stands out most to me is the realization that there are so many women out there! Miscarriage is the most common form of infant loss; some experts estimate that one in four women will experience miscarriage, while others suggest that most women will experience at least one miscarriage (often before even realizing they are pregnant) during their childbearing years. Yet we, as a community and a culture, a society in general, do not know how to handle this very common reality.

It saddens me that we live in a world where we are so consumed with our own comfort that we cannot allow someone else to hurt. Many women who have suffered miscarriage do not speak of it; some are not even allowed to acknowledge their loss. Even if the grieving mother (and that is what she is!) does acknowledge the loss, she is often the only one who will. And even more fathers are left to grieve silently, because we cannot or will not acknowledge that they have even experienced a loss. And it only gets worse with time. Since we do not allow them time to grieve, they do not get to heal, either.

My two miscarriages were very early. The first time, I was not even aware that I was pregnant; I just knew something was happening. The second time around, it was devastating, because we had been trying to get pregnant. When we found we had conceived Zoe, it was a very hard moment: it had only been 2 1/2 months since the last miscarriage; we were afraid to hope.

I cannot imagine what it is like for all of the families who have lost their eagerly anticipated first child, either through miscarriage or later loss. I do not know the devastation of losing that hoped-for child, knowing that he or she was the last hope for parenting a precious son or daughter. All of our losses were experienced after we already had two happy, healthy little boys.

I do know what it’s like, though, to be afraid to hope for a healty baby. I know what it’s like to be fairly certain that she is the last sweet baby I will have the privilege of being mother to. I know what it’s like, too, to be conscious of the fact that I am flushing my baby away, with the entire world around me completely oblivious. I know what it’s like to sit at a baby shower, celebrating the coming birth of the first child of someone close, knowing, all the while, that my body is rejecting the opportunity to provide life for my own baby.

Losing a child is heart-wrenching experience. I was not as affected by my early miscarriages, but that was only because I was not (yet) as invested in those babies. I was still their mother; they were still my children; and I still felt their loss. I still mourned their passing. I just didn’t have as much company. Or, unfortunately, as much compassion.

I am honored to have had the privilege of hearing Stacie’s story from her own lips. I am outraged and deeply sorrowful at the treatment she, and so many others, received. The stories I’ve heard, as well as the ones I’ve lived, are not encouraging. My prayer, today, is that God would help us learn to acknowledge this epidemic, so that we can begin to understand how to better relate to its victims. No grieving person should ever be denied the opportunity to grieve just because we don’t understand their loss. May God forgive us our selfishness! And may He offer the comfort that we have denied these women and families.

May 07

…In a Fallen World

There’s a lot on my heart and mind today.  I’ve had a full weekend.  It’s been busy, but that’s not what’s going on in my world right now.  I’m actually thinking about the subtitle of my blog: “living hopefully in a fallen world.”

I’ve spent a lot of time, since Zoe’s death, thinking about what it means to live in a fallen world.  Obviously, death is a big part of it.  It means that I’m a bereaved mother.  Babies can be born with fatal physical defects.  It means that two-year-old boys can die in tragic accidents.  It means that there are needs for organizations that specialize in pregnancy and infant loss services.  It means having arms that ache, because they’re empty of the babies that are supposed to be there.  Our babies didn’t die because we did something wrong, or because we would have, given the opportunity.  They died because our world is Fallen.  It’s full of fatal flaws, because Man sinned, Humanity fell, and the entire Creation fell under the Curse.  It’s not just us; all of Creation is subject to the consequences of sin.  Animals find their nests empty, too.

The Fallenness of Creation goes a lot farther than just death, though.  It’s the reason that my 2 month old niece was just diagnosed with one of the same congenital heart defects that my own precious Zoe suffered from.  It’s why her older sister’s body can’t process the food that she eats. It’s why things break down over time, including bodies.  Virtually every illness can be traced to the breakdown in DNA and genetic material through generations, all the way back to that moment – the Fall – when everything started to, literally, FALL apart.

Living in a Fallen world means that our children get bumps and scrapes.  It means that we, as responsible parents, have to discipline our children.  It means that they defy us, they choose to rebel, just as we chose to rebel, just us their own children will choose to rebel, someday.  It means that there are stuggles in every area of our lives.

Living in a Fallen world means that our relationships take work.  It means that we struggle as parents – both because our children (and their parents!) are sinful and because we have to watch them suffer.  It means that we struggle to be friends, taking offenses, misunderstanding the motives of others…  It means that we struggle in our marriages, never seeming to quite be able to grasp and meet the deepest needs of those that mean the most to us.

Living in a Fallen world means that we struggle in our relationship with the Lord.  It means that, even if we are able to maintain, by His grace, a close relationship with Him, it still falls short.  It means that we become angry with Him, blaming Him for things that He never intended for us.

I’ve been struggling, these past few days, with that Fallenness.  I’ve been facing renewed grief in regard to my own loss.  Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the loss of some close friends of ours, their little one’s Forever Day.  Our niece’s heart defect was diagnosed this morning.  I spent Saturday morning at the offices of a perinatal loss ministry, participating in some of the work they do there and talking about the losses that so many of us have experienced.  I’ve been confused, discouraged, depressed, and I’ve been hurting.  More than I have in quite some time.

There’s more to living in a Fallen world, though.  We have hope!  We believe that our precious Zoe is waiting for us, with our dear Savior, to share eternity with us.  We believe that our other children are not hopelessely lost, that our discipline and love for them are not in vain, but have an expected end.  Our future is not uncertain.

One of the things that came up, this weekend, was that God’s glory is of utmost importance.  We know that Creation is Fallen.  So, what do we do with that?  The Westminister Chatechism states that the chief end of man is “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”   How does taht relate to our Fallenness?  Well, I think that it comes down to being able to recognize the opportunities in the Fallenness.  Where is our focus?  Do we concentrate on the horrific fact that there is necessity for pregnancy and infant loss ministry?  Or do we embrace the opportunity to reach out to those who are suffering from the Fall and show them the love of Christ?  Do we concentrate on the tragedy of lives cut short? Or do we focus on the precious value of every minute of every day that we have with the precious relationships that remain to us?

I know taht it sounds pithy to just say “Focus on the positive.”  That isn’t my point here, at all.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes the pithy things have a good foundation.  The old acronym for joy – Jesus, Others, You – is a really simple thing to say.  And it’s not that simple, a lot of the time.  But there’s a point to it.  And it matters.

I genuinely believe that, sometimes, God is more glorified in the way we respond to suffering than He would be in miraculously causing the suffering to cease.  And I have yet to meet someone who has survived suffering, in any positive way, without reaching out to others.  Regardless of what it costs them, as an individual.  The only way to be able to live hopefully in a Fallen world is to understand the ultimate order of the most important pieces of the Universe.  Christ said that the first commandment was to love the Lord, with the second to love others as ourselves: Jesus, Others, You.  The secret to joy has never been a secret.  The secret to living hopefully has never been a secret, either.

No one is perfect, and I’m not saying I have the formula for anything.  It’s an easy thing to say that I understand what I’m supposed to be doing.  It’s another thing, entirely, to say that I can do it.  I started out with honesty: I’ve been struggling.  I still am.  It’s a lot easier to wallow in my own pain, oblivious to the needs of others.  But it doesn’t help.  So, instead of choosing to focus on myself, I’m trying to get it turned back around.  It would be a lot easier, but joy doesn’t start with a ‘Y’.