Mar 22

Investing

A few weeks ago, we had a conversation, in my ladies’ Bible study, that has really been weighing heavily on me.  The conversation had to do with parents, in another country.  Someone we knew had been serving there and had been shocked to find that, when told their children were likely going to die, many parents simply walked away.  Another acquaintance, someone who works with difficult family situations here, told her that it’s the only way some people know how to cope.  She conveyed the message with conviction, having been taught this over and over in her social work training, but without personal understanding.  Because of what she sees every day, she was not shocked, but was still deeply saddened by these parents’ reactions to their children’s diagnoses.  As the conversation was going on around me, I felt compelled to speak up.  I had a different point of view.

Listening to the conversation, I had been taken back to some things that I hadn’t thought about in a while.  I was overwhelmed, again, with the suddenness of remembering what has been forgotten – or at least pushed aside.  Sometimes, we work so hard to get past something that we forget it was ever there.  It’s not, necessarily, that we mean to forget.  It’s more that, sometimes, looking ahead is just more important that looking back.  And, sometimes, when we work extra hard to get around something, we get so much out of the “detour” that we forget it wasn’t the main route to begin with.  So, when we’re suddenly reminded of that giant pothole we were going around, we’re surprised to see it there.  Which was kind of what happened to me.

Before I go any further, I should probably explain something else.  In a lot of the ministries that I have been involved with, over the years, one of the ideas that has come up a lot is the concept of “investing.”  Most people think of investing as a financial concept.  It is.  But in ministry, it’s often used to refer to relationships, especially the ones that require a lot of commitment.

Think of it this way: when a person is looking to invest money, there are a lot of options.  Maybe they want to put something into the stock market.  This is somewhat risky.  They may want to invest a moderate amount, hoping to earn a little more along the way.  However, there’s no way to know how this will work out.  The stocks they invest in may crash next week, next month, or next year.  If they ride it out, they may be able to break even.  With a little luck, they may even come out ahead.  But it may take years.  Commodities, on the other hand, may be a little more stable.  Gold and silver may fluctuate in value, but they won’t cease to exist, like that start-up company might.  Then again, maybe you want to invest in art.  You purchase a mixed collection of works that you appreciate.  Maybe you find a small work by one of the masters (if you have more money than you know what to do with!).  You buy it at auction, add it to your collection, and enjoy it every day for the rest of your life.  Now that is an investment!

In ministry, relationships with other people are sometimes approached this way.  Every relationship requires you to invest something of yourself.  You know what I’m talking about.  That friend who calls you every day, to talk for five minutes about coffee?  That’s an investment of your time.  If you weren’t willing to give that five minutes a day, you wouldn’t have that friend.  Or what about the text message you send, three times a week, to check in with your co-worker who moved to another city?  That’s another investment.  How much you invest in a relationship directly correlates to how much that relationship is worth to you.  Those five minute daily calls?  If she wanted ten, you’d be out.  You get the idea.  Relationships are investments.

Some relationships are costly, but we deem them worth the commitment.  Family relationships, for example, often demand a great deal of investment, but we put in whatever we have to because, well, it’s family.  Marriage, too, requires us to put a lot in.  A good marriage takes work.  But a good marriage is worth whatever it requires of us, because it’s the kind of relationship that just doesn’t come along every day.  In ministry, we strive to invest in everyone, especially the people that most write off as “not worth the investment.”

That brings me back to why I felt I had to speak up that day.  While I was listening to the other ladies talk, expressing their shock and sadness that these parents could just walk away from their dying children, I was thinking a little differently.  I remembered.  I remembered how tempting it was to hold my daughter at arm’s length.  I remembered how hard we had to try to keep from building walls, to protect ourselves from what we knew was coming.  I remembered talking to my husband about how we needed to be intentional about “investing” in her, choosing to pour ourselves into a relationship that we knew could not last.  I remembered.  And I could understand, in that moment, how those parents could walk away.

I shared, then, with all those beautiful women, what was on my heart.  I told them about having to consciously choose to love my daughter, without allowing myself to focus on “tomorrow.” I told them about how hard it is to “invest” in someone that you know won’t be here in a year.  Someone that you know is leaving, soon, and forever.  Our only strength was in believing that we will see our Zoë again someday.  Without that hope, I told them, I can understand why someone would walk away.

I spoke what was on my heart, I cried a little, and then I stopped.  Later, the woman who had explained the parents’ behavior as “a coping mechanism” thanked me.  She said that, while she’d been taught the concept for years, she’d never really understood it, but that my words had given her some insight.  I was glad the Lord was able to use what I had said.

Anyway, it’s been weeks since the conversation, but I still can’t stop thinking about it.  I keep coming back to idea of investing, particularly in our children.  As parents, we assume that our children will require commitment, on our part.  We commit to bringing them up.  In many cases, we even do so before our churches, committing to bring them up in a way that honors the Lord.  We assume the commitment will consist of time, energy, emotion, finances, support, and many other facets of our resources.  We assume the investment will be long-term.  We assume the outcome will be favorable.

A financial investor always hopes to come out ahead.  Investors may even assume that they will.  But it would be downright foolish for an investor to assume that every single one of his investments was going to do well, long-term, with only minor bumps in the market.

So why do we, as parents?  We are devastated to learn that our investments, in any of our children, fall short of the projected results?  Why do we think we should have the right to back out of our investments?  Less than 18-20 years?  Forget it!  Not worth my investment.  Less than favorable outcome?  Forget it!  Not worth my investment.  What do you mean my son’s going to grow up and stop talking to me?  I’m not interested in that!  Why is it that we have no problem taking risks on financial investments, based solely on good business, but we don’t think we should have to take risks on our personal investments in human beings?  I don’t know how many women have told me that they wouldn’t carry a baby to term, if they knew that the baby wasn’t going to live to his or her first birthday.  Why do we think children should come with guarantees, when we invest in a market that doesn’t?

I’m not really sure I have the answers to these questions.  I used to assume the same projections that every other parent does.  But then I grew to understand how a parent could walk away.  It still breaks my heart, because I believe every human being is worth the investment, but I understand.  Mostly I’ve just been wondering about the investments we make in our kids.  They really aren’t any more stable or predictable than any other investment.  But, then: if that Picasso you bought at auction turns out to be a forgery, does that mean you suddenly stop enjoying the artwork, or is it still worth the investment, if only to you?  And, for those of us who understand the investment, here’s a challenge that’s been on my heart: how burdened are we for those who are so poor in spirit that they cannot afford it?

Dec 09

I’m excited!

So….

First of all, by way of an update: I had a ministry meeting on Thursday. It went really well. We have an idea of where we’re going now! Hooray! We have a little bit of a timeline, too. We’re looking to make a presentation in mid-January. If that goes well and we get approval, we’ll have another in mid- to late February. If all goes well (please pray!) everything will be official by spring of next year. Exciting…and scary…and…a really good exercise in trusting God to work out the details the way that He wants!

I have been contacted twice, in the last two weeks, by people asking prayer for families who have been walking through loss. I started keeping track of where some of our resources have been going and I was surprised. I’ve been the one doing all of the distribution, but I just didn’t pay enough attention to realize how far we’re spread out, already. That’s exciting! Also, it’s very humbling. God has allowed me to be involved in what He’s doing, and that’s no small thing.

I also wanted to let you know, in case anyone is interested, that I found some merchandise I’m excited about. I’ve been aware of   www.cafepress.com    for some time, but I was doing a little shopping around, this week, and realized something I didn’t know before.  Cafepress sells Trisomy-18 awareness merchandise! They also have merchandise with T-21 (Down syndrome) and T-13 awareness messages (some of them are super cool!). They sell t-shirts, bracelets, coffee mugs, coasters, key chains, and all kinds of other things. They have onesies (bodysuits) that say “Compatible with Life”. I LOVE IT!!!!!! Even if your family is dealing with other issues, they have all kinds of awareness merchandise. I’ll post a picture of my bracelet, when it comes in. I can’t wait!

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.

Aug 02

Hurting…

Kelly, at Sufficient Grace Ministries, posted on her blog today about something that every baby loss parent can understand.  I highly recommend that you read it.  There’s a link to their website in my blogroll.  You can find my comment there.

Kelly is hurting today, asking “what if” questions.  A U.S. Senator recently made international headlines by giving birth to a baby, diagnosed prenatally with the same condition Kelly’s son had.  The reason for the headlines?  Due to extreme intervention, the Senator’s baby survived.  Kelly fought for the same measures, but was told they wouldn’t help.  Her son lived for six hours.

Kelly understands the grace of God – she named the ministry for His grace.  But, like all of us in the community of bereaved parents, her arms are empty.  Even though we look ahead hopefully, there is still hurting now.  Like Kelly, I know my Zoe-girl is safe in the arms of Jesus.  But MY arms are empty.  And that means that, for now, I miss her.  There is a balm in Gilead, but it only soothes.  We still have to deal with the pain of loss every day.

I really appreciate Kelly’s honesty today.  Like all of us, she’s having a bad day.  We all do.  God’s grace really is sufficient, and it helps to understand that we are loved by our Sovereign Father, who has a plan for every moment. Our children’s lives matter.  It’s good to know that.  But we have still lost.  And it’s okay to remember that, sometimes, and just hurt.

My heart is hurting with Kelly today.  And with so many others.  Just like I know their hearts hurt with me, when I am having a bad day.  We live in a fallen world – it’s okay to admit, sometimes, that life hurts.  Some days, more than others.

Jul 26

Intelligent Design…

I’ve mentioned the abundance of flora, relative to my home, in some of my previous posts. I’ve even posted some pictures of some of the things that grow in our yard. This week, our rose of sharon is blooming, as well as our black-eyed susans and our hosta.

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I am always surprised by the breathtaking splendor of God’s Creation!

Usually, though, as the mother of two small boys, my fauna generally frightens off most of the other fauna, so my photographs tend to be limited to flora and skyscapes. The last few days, though, the Lord has been blessing me with some opportunities to share some of the other things we see around our house. There were butterflies playing in our driveway, yesterday, that I was able to get quite close to, and our son found a little “playmate” this evening.

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I know a lot of people don’t like bugs and critters, but I have two little boys – they’re part of life, for me!  Fortunately, I’ve never been overly bothered by most of them. Probably because I’m a perpetual kid, when it comes to the wonder of Creation. I’m so amazed by the details and fascinated by the intricacies of design…I just can’t get enough! And some of my favorite things are creepy-crawlies. After all, butterflies are technically insects. I think fireflies might be my favorite, though. I always feel sorry for city people, when I look out over a field of hay, early summer, just past sunset, and see them – by the thousands, sometimes – flickering off and on. It’s so beautiful. And it’s pretty cool, too.

I can’t imagine how anyone could look at the things I see, sometimes every day, and not believe in intelligent design. I’m amazed, on a continual basis, by the wonder of the world around us. There are just too many specific details for it to be a series of accidents. Things all fit together too neatly.

I suppose that has a lot to do with why I’m so passionate about reaching out to families facing prenatal diagnosis and pregnancy/infant loss. I am convinced that there is a Creator God who has a plan for EVERY DETAIL of His Creation and I believe that He doesn’t let things happen by accident. I don’t believe that He causes babies to die, but I don’t believe that it happens in vain, either. I believe that He has a plan for every SECOND of their lives, making every moment valuable in ways we may never understand.

For those of you out there, tonight, wondering “Why?”, I can’t answer that for you. The fallen state of this world we live in is a devastating thing. Scripture tells us that Creation groans with its longing for restoration. I do know, though, that every minute is worth it. Losing my Zoe-girl was the most agonizing thing I have ever experienced. But those moments that I had with her…her life had a purpose. If nothing else, I’m better for knowing her. And I know there are others who would say the same. I don’t think I could have made any choice that would have lessened the pain; maybe changed it, but not diminished it. Instead, I could have robbed myself, and others, of the chance to know her and be changed. What’s worth more than that?

Jun 27

Zoe’s Room

Today was a bittersweet day for me. Things did not go the way they were planned, which can be aggravating at the best of times. I’ve found, though, that getting aggravated can be productive for me. When I get upset, I channel, and start doing things that I’ve been putting off, usually for far too long.

I was productive today. I, once again, had a few hours without the boys, while they were hanging out with some family members. So, I decided to work on something that I’ve been putting off for about 3 years now. I made a curtain.

curtain detailcurtainThis is the curtain I made. It’s hanging in my office. And it’s pink…

Shortly after we found out we were expecting Zoe, we started decorating our extra bedroom as a nursery. I was so excited! I painted the walls (a gorgeous shade of lavendar; the pictures don’t do it justice!), and detailed little flowers along the baseboards, with butterfly decals everywhere. It was all very girly and adorable.

We knew Zoe wasn’t going to be with us very long, but it was extremely important to me that we make a place for her. I guess it was, in a lot of ways, my way of showing the world that she was worth it. Her diagnosis didn’t make her less valuable to me, and I wanted to make sure that everyone – especially our boys – understood that I loved her and was excited to make her a part of our lives.

While I was getting ready for Zoe, I got the supplies to make a curtain for her window. Since the room was purple, with pink and green accents, I decided to make the curtain pink and green.

I am NOT a pink person. I like feminine things: lace, frills, flowers, dresses, high heels…Purple’s even my favorite color. I just DON’T like pink. Haven’t since I was about five. But my Zoe-girl was going to get everything – even if it WAS only for a little while. And some of it was going to be pink. Which is how I ended up with a pink curtain.

At some point, after Zoe died, we started talking about what to do with her room. It was still her room. Even now, after two and a half years, it’s still her room. If we live in this house for fifty years, it will still be her room. I know that. My hubby, though, was thinking about the fact that we don’t really have enough space to keep an empty room. Practically speaking, he was right.

The problem I had, though, was that he wanted to make it someone else’s room. We have two boys and they share a bedroom. It’s not even a big bedroom. So, logically, it would make sense to move one of them into the “empty” room. I couldn’t do it, though.

In the end, we ended up converting Zoe’s room into an office. I needed a place to work on some things, without four little hands helping. I needed a place to store some things. Most of all, though, I needed a way to let it keep on being Zoe’s room. So, we switched out the furniture. We didn’t paint the walls, though. All of Zoe’s flowers are still there. There’s still a shelf, with her piggy bank, letters that spell out her name, and other odds and ends that let me feel like it’s still her room.

And, now, there’s a pink curtain. It’s been about 3 years, but it’s done now. And it’s my office, but it’s still her room. It’s my window, but it’s still her curtain. I don’t like pink. But for now, at least, I can’t imagine any other color. If it wasn’t her pink curtain, it just wouldn’t belong. And, even though I don’t like pink, I love my new curtain. Her curtain. In my office. Zoe’s room. Always.

Jun 07

What a Difference Our God Makes!

“There is a difference in despair and deep sadness over the time that will pass until we can see her again. It is a conscious, daily choice to experience dakyro, the sadness that allows one to grieve with the expectation of redemption.” – Angie Smith (I Will Carry You)

If you pay any attention to my widgets, you’ll recognize this as one of the books I’ve been reading. Emotionally, it’s brutal. I can relate far more than I care to admit. Angie’s daughter lived for only 2 hours and weighed just over three pounds. That almost makes Zoe’s life seem long and full.

Reading Angie’s story is extremely difficult, because the similarities are shocking. My copy of the book is riddled with graffiti, notes and comparisons, similarities in our stories and personalities… I think I’ve underlined enough to get most of the main storyline across!

It’s humbling to realize, through interactions with others (however distant), how big our God is. I’m not reading my own story, and there are obvious differences, but the ways that He works are so often the same. We have the same God. That makes all the difference!

May 20

Mother’s Day (and other emotional events)

Wow. Has it really been that long since I posted? Okay, well this is way overdue, so here goes.

The reason I haven’t posted recently is because I haven’t really known what to say. My blog is supposed to be about hope in the midst of grief and finding reasons to praise God even when things look really bad. Lately, though, I haven’t felt much like praising. It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for me.

Mother’s Day was a week ago yesterday. Three years ago, the day after Mother’s Day, I found out that something was wrong with my unborn baby. This weekend, we celebrated our youngest son’s fifth birthday. The day after his second birthday, we heard that our daughter probably had Trisomy-18. On Wednesday, we attended his preschool graduation program. I’m not one of those super-emotional moms who gets sad and mopey every time my kids pass a milestone. But it’s hard not to get emotional when you know it’s your last preschool event and it’s not your baby. It’s just one of those reminders about what we’ve lost.

I think, though, one of the most bittersweet moments, in the last week and a half, was when his little friend came out for the graduation program. She is the most adorable little girl, the perfect blend of sweetness and spunk, always with a smile on her face. She’s been one of his best friends, this year, so we’ve spent time getting to know her at field trips and class activities. When she came out the other night, she was wearing the sweetest little dress, in my favorite colors… It ripped my heart out.

I always wanted to be that mom. My little girl(s?) was going to have handmade frilly dresses for all of her special occassions. She was going to have bows in her hair and little purses and fancy shoes. When we found out Zoe was going to be a girl, I was ecstatic. That weekend was one of the best weekends of my life! And then I went for my follow-up, Monday: the day after Mother’s Day.

As if all of those things weren’t enough, I’ve also been super busy. And working on this kind of ministry makes Mother’s Day a thousand times more emotional. My husband got me a fabulous gift this year, and my boys are always so sweet about Mother’s Day. Still, though, I spent Mother’s Day with an overwhelming burden for the families who are wrestling with decisions about the fate of their unborn babies. What a Mother’s Day present.

As emotional as all of these things have been for me, there’s been a much greater effect on me. Instead of allowing these things to bring me down, I’ve been able to direct that emotional energy into the development of a new ministry. I am more resolved than ever, by the grace of my awesome God, that I will do whatever I can to make sure that other families do not feel the isolation that we felt. The stats about the difference that a little support makes are staggering. If God can use me to move that number towards life…if He allows me to interact with families who are being blessed by those precious moments…if He chooses to use our story to help someone else choose the amazing blessing that they thought was not available to them…what an honor!

I am overwhelmed by the burden He has given me to come alongside families and help them through such sacred, uncharted territory. I am humbled by the knowledge that my willingness to be used by God may mean the difference between life and death. I rejoice for every moment I got to spend with my sweet little Zoe-girl. I’ve always known that her life made a difference. Now I have the opportunity to honor her and glorify God by extending that difference. I’m just praying that I don’t get in God’s way.

So, to all the moms reading this: Happy Mother’s Day. Even if your children aren’t in your care, you’re still their mommy. For whatever time they were ours to hold, we are grateful. We would never have chosen to give them back so soon, but we wouldn’t change it, and we wouldn’t change them. We couldn’t love them anymore, so what would it matter?

Apr 27

Tough Choices

I got a text message, this morning, from a family member who’s expecting.  They just found out the sex of their baby.  I’m so excited for them.  So happy!

As happy as I am for them, I can’t help thinking about the day that we found out about our baby girl.  It was great news.  We were so excited!  And then we got the other news.  We had already had some suspicions that there was something wrong, but we weren’t expecting what we heard.  The day I first heard “Trisomy-18” will be etched in my memory until the Lord calls me home.

I’ve been praying, as I’m trying to establish this ministry, for families who are hearing what we heard (or any difficult prenatal news).  Today, especially, they’re on my heart and mind.  I am rejoicing for my family’s good news, grateful that they are not going to need any of the things I’m trying to establish here, and remembering what it was like to find out that we did.

Every pregnancy comes with tough choices.  Naming a child is equivalent to labeling them for all of their natural lives.  Are we going to breast-feed or go with bottles?  Is it better to co-sleep or set up a separate bed for baby?  How do we feel about vaccines?  Are we favoring natural birth, homebirth, hospital birth with medical assistance…how do we feel about Caesarean birth?  There are always choices and it complicates everything when we’re responsible for another person.

Prenatal diagnosis comes with a different set of choices, though.  Even if the problems show up on ultrasound, there is the decision about amniocentesis, for confirmation.  Then there are decisions about whether to terminate or carry to term – supposing that the baby even survives.  And if carrying to term is chosen, how severe the complications are can affect the selection of birth facilities…

When my husband and I found out that Zoe wasn’t developing normally, we were offered the opportunity to have an amnio.  Having been through 2 miscarriages the previous year, knowing the rates of inconclusive or false positive results, and being aware of the increased risk of miscarriage, we decided against it.  We weren’t sure what purpose it would have served, anyway.  We were already in love with our daughter, making her life infinitely more valuable than words can say.  Termination was never on the table.

Even without those choices, though, we had difficult decisions to make.  And we knew there was the possibility, however slim, that our daughter would be a survivor.  Many parents of prenatal diagnosis aren’t so lucky.  They know that their child is receiving a death sentence.

How do you face the decisions that come with the knowledge (usually a blindside, by the way) that your child (children, in some cases) has one or more serious physical problems?  No matter what choices you make, you relive them thousands of times in the coming days, weeks, months, years…

I don’t have any answers for these questions.  I don’t know how I faced those decisions.  I know I spent a lot of time in prayer, allowing my faith to influence me.  I know I had a great support system – in my husband, my church, my family, my friends, medical staff, total strangers – that helped a lot.  I know that the decisions my husband and I made were the right ones for us – from the decision to carry Zoe to term to the decision to sign the DNR to the decision to hold her in our arms, surrounded by our family, while her beautiful soul flew home to eternity.  But I don’t know what decision is right for anyone else.  I know there isn’t a formula to help answer the questions.

Here’s what else I know.  I know that God is Sovereign.  He knows what’s going on and He chooses to allow it.  That doesn’t mean it’s His plan, though.  He never intended for death, fear, pain, or separation to be part of our existence.  He made us to have eternal relationships, while we walked with Him in a world that was perfect.  All of the pain was part of the curse, resulting from the Fall; it didn’t come until later and wasn’t part of the plan.  I know that He can use the pain and loss (here I am!), but not because He intended it.  I know that, no matter what, He loves us.  I know it’s okay to be angry and feel betrayed.  I also know that I will probably never understand.  But I still choose to believe.  And that’s been another difficult choice.  It still is, sometimes.  It’s a tough choice I have to make every day.

My prayers, as I wrap this up, are with those who are there now.  I know what it’s like to face those choices.  I’m still facing some of them, two and half years after Zoe’s death.  I hope and pray that the Lord can use the choices that I made.  Even if He does, though, there are still people making those tough choices right now.  And they need help!  I don’t know how much help I can be, but I’m out here.  You’re not alone.  My thoughts and prayers are with you today, and you’re always on my heart.