Friday Ramble: Connection

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Several weeks ago, in another post, I can’t remember which one, I removed two paragraphs because I realized it didn’t fit with the rest of what I was writing.  I held onto those two paragraphs until I had another day to dig deeper into it.  And when I opened up the Word document to jog my memory on this topic, this is what I read:

It’s really, really easy to barrier yourself in this life.  All of our houses have garages that close, doors that lock, fences that border.  Our phones come with a do not disturb function on it and caller id, but before that, we were using voicemail to screen our calls (or was that just me?).  We have been moving towards isolation with furious speed for decades.  We blame the tools of this world – smart phones, social media, the internet – for all of it, but we, mankind, created those tools.

This is not a declaration against social media or cell phones or even the internet.  God is in every connection.  We can’t encrypt against his omnipresence.  We can’t go incognito from his omniscience.  And I believe he works as much in the virtual world as he does in the physical one.  You can’t block God.

This month has been particularly hard for me.  The end of this month will bring the one year anniversary of losing our second daughter.  And just like with our first, the weeks leading up to it have been hard.  Like I said earlier this week, I feel drained by any social interaction, so I’ve chosen to take some time to myself.

Then, I read these two paragraphs and realize how appropriate they are as a reminder. Even when I’m feeling the need to distance myself to work through grief, it is such good news that God remains connected.  And he has made himself known to me – through nature, my dogs, even conversations online with friends and strangers.  It’s so amazing to have people check in at random, but perfectly timed, moments.

So, thank you, friends.  Thank you to those of you who have commented on my blog recently.  You have made my heart smile.  Thank you to those who have sent private messages or small reminders to let us know that you are praying for us this month.  It has meant so much more than you will ever know.  In the midst of pain and grief, I can look to my Heavenly Father who provides for me, and I know that I am blessed.

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TTC and Auntie Flo

That most frustrating part of the month, soon after the negative pregnancy tests, when you have to go out and buy pads and tampons, pain meds, and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.

Personally, this month has been extra difficult since the anniversary of our second daughter’s passing is at the end of it.  I’ve had to double up on the self-care and taking one day at a time, and to be honest, I haven’t been as social as I usually am.  And when I am, I leave social settings completely drained.  My sweet husband has been very kind and patient.  Since this has been on my brain this past week, I thought I would share some of the things I do to take care of myself.

  1. Make the bed.  I like to keep the house clean, but when the depression hits, it’s hard for me to do all of the cleaning tasks each day.  So, I severely simplify the list.  Make the bed.  Do a load of laundry.  Empty the dishwasher.  I know that this too shall pass, and I will be back up and around cleaning the house again.  But for now, just make the bed, do something simple so that you feel like you have accomplished, and let the rest of it go.
  2. Take a bath.  Do something that is pampering.  Even if that just means a hot shower instead.  Take a moment in the day to slow down.  I, personally, prefer bubbles, but it could also be wearing a face mask or sipping on my favorite tea.  Or, if I’m feeling really crazy, do all three.
  3. Escape for a certain amount of time.  This could be watching a favorite movie (something you have seen before that won’t bring up bad memories).  It could be reading a favorite book.  Sitting outside in the sun.  Snuggling with a pet.  Meditating.  But do it for a set amount of time.  It’s really easy for me to lose myself binging on a tv show, and while that’s not completely bad, it’s not completely healthy.   That’s why I choose favorite movies over TV or YouTube, two places where I can easily lose myself.
  4. Yoga.  This is my favorite type of movement because it connects body, mind, and soul together.  But a simple walk around the neighborhood listening to a podcast or music could work as well.  Or dance in your living room.  But I find it very tempting to just spend the whole day on the couch or in bed.  One of my favorite yoga sequences is done by Yoga with Adriene for PMS specifically.

  1. Spend some time with God.  You know, when I think about when someone says they spend time with God, I think of this:

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Quiet beach time, or sitting in the silence in my library, as the light filters in perfectly, as I commune with God.  But sometimes it’s more like this:

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And that’s okay.  I mean, have you read the Psalms?  God is present in the silence, but he’s also present in the scream.  And if I learned anything, it’s that one of most healing experiences on this journey has been a good, ugly cry out to God.

It is frustrating to have to go back to square one every month, but remembering to give myself a little space and grace definitely helps the process.  What are some ways that you practice self-care when going through a difficult time?

Songs for Pregnancy Loss

Lately, I’ve been in a very contemplative, and when I get into these kinds of moods, I like to listen to music that reflects that mood.  So, I just searched for Pregnancy Loss music playlists on YouTube and found a host of songs.  Not all of the songs really spoke to me, but I wanted to share a few that really affected me deeply.

Ed Sheeran – Small Bump

He wrote this song for a friend who lost their baby five months into the pregnancy.  It was the first song that spoke of the pain I was feeling in my own loss during my first miscarriage.  I had no idea how much more this song would mean to me now.

Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – Thy Will

I wrote about this last year, just a couple of weeks before I lost my second daughter.  I remember last year, in the months after my daughter was stillborn, I would be in the fetal position in the middle of the living room, ugly crying/screaming, while this song played through the speakers.  “Remember that you’re God and I’m not so, Thy will be done”.  That kind of desperate surrender is something I can relate to.

Beam Me Up – P!nk 

This is a song that P!nk wrote for a friend who had lost a child.  I heard this one more recently, but it definitely is relatable to pregnancy loss as well.  “Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it, I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face.”  It talks about being in a parallel universe where the child doesn’t die.  What I wouldn’t give to spend just a minute staring into the eyes of my daughters.

I Will Carry You (Audrey’s Song) – Selah

This is the most recent song I’ve found, even though the song has been around for a while.  It perfectly reflects my feelings on most day.  And my favorite line is “I will praise the One who’s chosen me to carry you.”  I think sometimes it’s easy to just ask why my daughters were taken instead of realizing that I was chosen to carry these two very special girls for as long as they were on this earth.  It doesn’t diminish me as a mother or them as my daughters.  And that is simply beautiful.

I know that there are other songs that are written about pregnancy loss or other kinds of loss that have been helpful to other people.  But these are the ones that speak to me right now.

Do you have any special songs that help you get through tough times or give you peace during the storms?

Friday Rambles: Respecting the Journey

I began this week talking about something that is quite controversial in the pregnancy loss community, and I guess I’m going to end the week with something that is also quite controversial.

RespectingTheJourney

After I lost my first daughter back in 2014, I was invited into a private group for women of pregnancy loss.  In the first few weeks after she died, I was in a state of shock, and there was this decision of whether or not to give her a name on the death certificate.  For some reason, I didn’t want to do it.  I couldn’t settle on a name, and I didn’t want to (I would end up giving her a name a few months later as I processed my grief).

About a week after I got home from the hospital, I posted this to the forum:

“It has taken me a couple of days to really get my thoughts together of what to write on this post. Last week, November 26th, I delivered my stillborn daughter. Technically, it was at the 24 week mark, but I know she had passed probably about a week and a half earlier, when I stopped feeling her move. We hadn’t really decided on a name yet, and weren’t sure if that was something we wanted to do. Are there people who don’t name their stillborn children?”

I was met with a variety of answers, although most of the consensus was “If you loved your baby, you would have named her.” And I spiraled.  I mean, I slammed my laptop shut and walked away, thinking of how awful of a mother I must be that I couldn’t give my baby a name right then and there.  But then, a beautiful woman responded to all of these other comments this way:

“I really prayed over naming my babies but never felt a peace as to what name to give them, I really hope that doesn’t mean I don’t love them as much as my children here on earth with names. A name is a very special thing and if someone isn’t feeling at peace with naming their child of loss then that is between them and God, I doubt anyone who chooses not to does it without a lot of prayer.”

She gave me the grace and space I needed to heal.  She listened to the pain and courage in my words without judgment, and I learned that day how I needed to treat other women in this community.  Even within the trenches of pregnancy loss and infertility, there is unsolicited opinion and advice everywhere.  I know that these words are coming from a place of hope, but more often than not, they land in a place of hurt.

“Have you tried this treatment/diet/medication?”

“You should go to my OB because they are better.”

“Just have faith that God will give you a child.”

“You should do these things every year to honor your child, if you want to grieve the right way.”

“You should do x, y, and z, if you don’t want to regret it later.”

I know all of these are meant to help.  Just like the unsolicited comments that we get outside of the community.  It’s hard not to want to help, but just because you’ve been through something, it doesn’t give you the right to decide how someone else will go through it.

If this journey has taught me anything, it is to not judge the other person’s pain, suffering, or path.  I have realized that no person has ever shared their entire journey with me.  But I don’t have to know their entire journey to know that they deserve love and respect.  Some parts are too painful to relive.  Some are too shameful.  But I don’t need to understand the entire person to give them the ability to grieve the way they need to grieve, to hope in the way they need to hope.

Every woman has every right to celebrate their pregnancies in the way that they see fit.  I don’t know how long or how rough the road was to get there.  But on the other hand, every woman has the right to heal from their loss or their struggle the way that they need to heal.  I don’t know what obstacles lay in the path of every woman, but I don’t need to in order to know that they are beautiful, valuable, worthy creations of God.  And every road does not end with a healthy pregnancy or a child to raise, but I do know that the faith of these women inspires me each day to live boldly and speak boldly and write boldly.

My friends in the trenches are beautiful, strong, kind, loving, caring women who are grieving while living one day at a time.  They are incredible human beings, and I am so, so blessed that I can call them sisters in this community.

What To Do When She is Pregnant, and You Are Not

I hesitate to write this post because, full disclosure, I have people in my life who are pregnant right now, and I didn’t want them to feel like I was singling them out or directing this post towards them in any way.  But, coincidentally, I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends who are in the trenches of pregnancy loss and infertility who are met with this dilemma (without even knowing my own situation), and the conversations that I’ve had with them have been so helpful, eye-opening, and uplifting that I feel like I want to share.

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Because it’s not normal to hear that a new, precious life is coming into this world and respond to it with grief.  And we, as the women of pregnancy loss, get that.  We want to be happy.  We want to feel nothing but joy and excitement for what is coming.  But sometimes that is difficult because it means that time is moving on, and it’s a reminder that our precious babies are not here with us.  And we wonder if we will ever get to experience this same joy.

So, here are some things that I’ve learned from conversations with others as well as through my own journey.

  1. It’s okay to not be okay.  I feel like there is this desire to just get over it and “act normal” for those people we love and care about.  But being honest with yourself and with your friends and family is paramount to your health and the health of your relationships
  2. It’s okay to have boundaries.  You do not have to go to that baby shower.  You do not have to inundate yourself with social media pictures and updates of belly shots. You already know at least some of your limitations, and communicating that to people who love you will help in the long run
  3. It’s okay to challenge yourself.  But even if you don’t go to that baby shower, I challenge you to still get them a gift or send them a card.  I would invite you to pray for them, or even ask them for specific prayers about their pregnancy.  Don’t just lock yourself away from everything, because there is a baby coming, and that is something to be excited about.
  4. It’s okay to seek help.  I see a therapist.  I have since about 10 months after my first daughter died.  I found a therapist that specializes in pregnancy and infant loss, having experienced it herself, but that may not always be available in your area.  Try at least one session.  Or at the very, very least find a good, supportive forum.  There are private Facebook groups and groups on several sites where women go for support.  They have been helpful to me on advice as well.

Dear pregnant friends, please be patient with us.  We are not going to go about this perfectly.  We may mess up and say the wrong thing or have a response to something that you weren’t expecting.  Know that we love you and we love this sweet new little one coming into the world.  We are just terrified of our own grief at times, at the unexpectedness of it all.  I’ve had reactions to milestones in other people’s pregnancies that I had no idea would affect me so much.

I am pretty lucky to have very aware friends and family who have supported me over the last four years of our pregnancy loss journey.  But I know that this isn’t true for a lot of women in my life, and I wanted to reach out and let them know that they are not alone.

 

Summer Study: Ephesians 1

This summer, on Sundays, the plan is to go through the book of Ephesians and Philippians, with a few other blog posts sprinkled here and there on other types of reflection.  But I’m super excited to really dive into more scripture this summer – both on Sundays and the Bible Study I’m doing this summer as well.

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Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus as Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome.  One of the things I noticed when I compared the other letters that Paul wrote to churches was that Ephesians was only one of two letters that Paul writes alone.  In 1 Corinthians, he is writing the letter with Sosthenes.  In 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians, it’s with Timothy.  In Galatians, it’s with all the brothers with him.  And 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he is writing with Timothy and Silas.  Only in Romans does he not mention anyone else with him as he writes the letter.

The part of the first chapter that truly struck me was this quote:

In him (meaning Christ), we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us…

Ephesians 1: 7-8a

That word lavished pricked me as soon as I read it.  As I continued through the rest of the chapter, my mind kept going back to that word.  Lavish is such a luxurious word.  I think of when someone lavishes gifts on someone else.  But I wanted to know what Paul said exactly, so, like any nerd, I looked it up in Greek.  The word is Perisseuo which means overflow and exceed.

It made me think of the story of the feeding of the 5000 with the 5 loaves and 2 fish.  How it fed everyone but still had 12 basketfuls left over.  Jesus not only met the need, but he surpassed it.

Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just pay our debt to sin.  It surpasses it.  And then I got giddy.  Because you know what that means?

I will never be too broken, too sinful, too much for the love and grace of God.  The riches of God’s grace not only pay my debt, but it surpasses my debt.  His grace is greater than any sin I have ever done, even the ones I think are too big to handle.

Not that we should continue sinning, which Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans (6:1-2).  We are freed from sin, and from the guilt and shame of that sin.  We didn’t bankrupt God with our sin.  But God did purchase us in our sin.  In Ephesians 1:13, it says that we are marked in him with a seal, a sign of possession.  And that seal is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit working within us is a sign that we are no longer our own, but that we belong to God.

Honestly, I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was a gift I could use, not a gift that used me.  You know, I thought that the power of the Holy Spirit was used to perform miracles, answer prayers, make life easier.  But this is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work for me, I work for the Holy Spirit.  And the Spirit’s purpose is to be “the praise of his glory” (v 14).  The Spirit uses us to praise God’s glory, to glorify God.

And that really sticks it to the Devil.  No matter what he throws at me – death, depression, isolation, anxiety, the Spirit can use those things to glorify God.  In my own weakness, God’s strength prevails, not just barely, but overabundantly with room to spare.

The story is of this powerful creator of universes who has an amount of grace and power that is beyond sufficient for all of the bad done in the world, all the losses, the pain, the hurt, the addictions.  We are heirs to that power, that redemption, that reconciliation through Christ (Ephesians 1:18-20), that cannot be separated from us (Romans 8: 28-29).

How cool is that?

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Friday Ramble: My Adventure to the Drug Store

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Usually, I buy my pregnancy tests and all things ovulation related from Amazon.

SPOILERS: I am not pregnant.  This is not that post.

Let’s continue.

Lately, my cycles have been predictable, even leading up to the cycle, I know I’m not pregnant.  My body is really good at making that clear.

Until this month.

Now, last month’s cycle, without going into any TMI, was WEIRD.  It was so weird, you guys.  So, I should have suspected that this cycle would be a little off, especially since it’s finally sunny outside and I’m spending more time out in that sun, hence the extra activity can also play a factor in weird cycles.

But as the days have passed and I haven’t had any of my normal symptoms, that little voice in the back of my head starts to scream.  Of course, due to the “normalcy” of my cycles of late, I ran out of pregnancy tests a couple months ago and didn’t restock.  But, I can’t wait two days for Amazon to bring me more, so I have to go to the local drug store.

My local drug store is great.  It has amazing people that work there.  But some of them are quite nosy.  For example, one day I bought a Dr. Scholls Ingrown Toenail repair kit for a stubbed toe, and the cashier proceeded to give me all of the tips and tricks to avoid such a situation.

Also, I worked in a drug store when I was a teenager, and I was quite the nosy cashier, myself.  So, I’m thinking as I pulled into the parking lot that I’m about to receive a lot of karmic justice.  I’m fearing that even a “good luck” and knowing look as the pregnancy test boxes are being rung up will send me into a tearful meltdown.  I know that either way (either preggo or PMS), I have a lot of hormones running through my system, and I’m gearing up for the inevitable breakdown in this store, a store that I frequent a lot due to the proximity to my house.  But I have to know, and that need overcomes my shaking hands, so I get out of the car.

As I walk in, I see the front cashier chatting with some customers, but he takes notice as I enter and welcomes me to the store.  I make a beeline straight for the aisle I need, but as I am walking there, the manager and another employee asked if I need help finding something.  Where is an invisibility cloak when you need one?

I head down the aisle.  It is not lost on me that on the same aisle as pregnancy tests, there are condoms.  So if one works, it means the other didn’t.  There are also pads on this aisle, which I guess is also appropriate.  Cause you will need these if the test doesn’t work.  Just found that slightly entertaining.

Oh!  Preggo tests are “buy one, get one half off”.  They know their customer.  Cause you know that pregnant or not, I’m taking at least two at a time just to be sure.  And there aren’t that many there, which means that of course, everyone else is doing the same thing I am, and I’m wondering if this time of year is particularly busy for the pregnancy test industry.  But now I’m standing too long in front of this section, so I grab two boxes and make my way up to the front of the store.

The cashier is still chatting to the customers, but as he sees I’m ready, he points me to a register and rings me up.  I’m thankful that “Ingrown Toenail” girl isn’t there today, and slightly happy that it’s a man at the register, as they are less likely to even realize what I’m buying, or at the very least less likely to say anything.  He rings me up, we talk about the loyalty rewards card and I leave the store relatively unscathed.

Of course, I go home and take a test, finding out that it’s negative.  Michael comes up later to put something away and I tell him the results.  He comes up and hugs me.  He doesn’t know what to say and neither do I.  It’s all part of it.  Every month this year has been a disappointment.  Tears fall down my cheek, but I’m not ugly crying or anything.  Just disappointed and frustrated that my cycle has decided to shift a few days to the right, giving me slight hope.

I don’t know if there was a moral to this story, although reading it back, I find it both hilarious and sad, which I think aptly describes life in general.  Some days we are hilariously anxious over what ifs that turn out to be nothing, and other days our hopes are delayed for a little longer.  I guess, I just wanted to share the window that is my life to you, my sweet, dear friends.