Easter and Expectation

I’m taking a small break in my Legacy study to share something a little more personal this week.

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One year ago on Good Friday, the Friday right before Easter, I found out I was pregnant. I won’t lie.  I was kinda hoping for another positive test this Good Friday as well, but that didn’t happen.

Last Sunday, I went to my old church and heard a sermon about the Saturday in between the death of Jesus and the resurrection.  All those miracles, and promises, just to have him die on the cross.  They didn’t know Sunday was coming.  I can’t imagine what those men and women who had followed Jesus throughout his ministry felt.

Then again, maybe I do.

No one had the plan of God figured out.  They thought he was a prophet.  They thought he would restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory.  Death wasn’t supposed to be a part of it.  Peter argued this point with Jesus and Jesus rebuked him.  The plan of God was impossible for them to see.

Last year, when I found out I was pregnant, I also did the math to know when I was due. It was going to be the day before Thanksgiving, the same day of the week that my first daughter was stillborn.  When I found out I was having another girl, I thought that all of the parts of the story were lining up so neatly into this beautiful testimony.  And then just five months after that positive test, my daughter passed away.

It didn’t make sense.  But just like the people in Jesus’s time, I’m not seeing the bigger picture.  And the truth is, I will never see the bigger picture in this life.  The only reason we can read the death of Jesus without faltering in our faith is because just a chapter or two later, he has risen.  And then we have the rest of the New Testament and the history of the world to see that story continue to the far reaches of the earth.  The people hiding behind locked doors, fearing for their lives after their teacher died, would have no way to see all of that.

The control freak in me wants to see that big picture, wants to be able to step back and see everything.  See why my daughters had to die.  See why I am having to wait now.  I know I get a few glimpses.  I see in small and big ways how God has used me during these past four years.  The rest of the story will have to be built on faith.  Faith that God will see this through, that he will reveal to me my next step when it’s time to take it.

That is the hope of Easter.  That one day everything will be revealed in the glory of God.  It is a reminder to continue living in expectation.  To keep living based in faith, learning from the ones hiding in those rooms.  Learning from the women who prepared the burial incense and got up early to honor their Lord, having no idea what they would find there.  I must continue to walk in faith, doing what God calls me to do.  Frankly, Saturday sucks.  But Sunday is coming.

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Remembering My Daughters

This past Saturday was the second anniversary of my first daughter’s stillbirth.  And the day before Thanksgiving was when my second daughter, who passed away in August, was due.  I wanted to take a moment, on this blog, to remember both of them.

I don’t have a lot of memories of my daughters.  I don’t know what their cries or laughter sound like.  I don’t even know what color their eyes were.  But I do have a few memories that I would like to share in honor of them.

My second daughter loved to dance.  Anytime I was in the car, listening to the radio on full blast (like I always do when I’m alone), I could feel my daughter kick and jump.  She especially liked the beats of Meghan Trainor for some reason.  My first daughter was also energetic, but she was smaller so I didn’t feel her kicks as strongly.  However, I definitely felt her move around a few times.

Both of my daughters were shy when it came time for the ultrasounds.  They both would put their hands in front of their faces whenever it was time for their close-ups.  It was both frustrating and freaking adorable.

Both of my daughters are very much loved by me and my family.  Their short lives on this earth have inspired me to live my own life to help others who experience loss, too.  And I know that they have brought my family closer, reminding each of us what is most important.

I may not know much about my daughters.  But I know that they are safe and loved where they are.  I take comfort in that and I have hope that one day we will be reunited again.

Grateful Encouragement

The month after my daughter died, I focused on physically healing.  I took the steps I knew I needed to take in order to get healthy or at least put myself on the path to becoming stronger and healthier.  You all were there for me, with encouraging words and kindness, and it held me up in the dark spaces, more than you will ever know.

The next month, I started to look at my life, trying to figure out what my next move would be.  Here were a few of the realities.

  1. Michael and I agreed that we wanted to try again, and we would after we took some time to heal physically and emotionally.  Based on doctor recommendations, we decided 4-6 months would be a good time frame for that healing, which put us trying again at the beginning of next year, 2017.
  2. I am very blessed to have the opportunity to stay at home right now and through my next pregnancy.  Since I will have an enormous amount of doctor visits and tests when I do get pregnant, getting another job anytime soon would not be ideal. Therefore, it is not the path I choose to take at this time.
  3. Since a lot of my support has come from the online community here, I wanted to find a way to connect more, go deeper, share my life with you so that if and when I do get pregnant again, I can have you walk with me on that journey, just as you have done these past few months.

I know that having a supportive community like you guys is not always a common thing on the internet.  The internet is full of trolls and anonymous comments who spread hate.  But I’ve been lucky and I know I’m lucky to have this community that spreads love and encouragement.  For that I am grateful.

But the whole reason I continued blogging after my first miscarriage, the whole reason I shared the deaths of my first and second daughters were to encourage others who felt alone.  Isolated.  Living without the community that I so deeply cherish.  I know how lucky I am to have you because I’ve read and heard story after story of people who don’t have this kind of support.

And I feel protective of these people.  No one should have to feel alone and isolated.  I know that I can’t fix the world’s problems.  I don’t think that’s what I’m called to do on this earth.  I’m called to love.  Love God.  Love Others.  And the number one way I know I can love others is to encourage.  Encourage others who are walking through the pain.  And help others to be beacons of encouragement.

So, in an effort to connect deeper and to encourage others, I started a Facebook page.  On the page, I share my YouTube videos and my blog posts.  And I will admit I was afraid of how I would be received.  Of what people would think about me.  I should know by now that I would get loved in return.  I’m blown away by all of the people who have already liked my page.  Thank you so much for supporting me.

Right now, I’m doing something a little fun on my page.  Every Friday until Christmas, I’m doing a giveaway to promote encouraging others.  The winner of the giveaway receives two $5 Starbucks gift cards.  One for them, and one for someone in their life who needs encouragement.  All you have to do is comment on the post on my Facebook page in order to be eligible.  So, if you want to participate, you are more than welcome to.

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The reason I’m doing all of this is to bring you on the journey of adding to our family, but also to help you encourage others in your own life story.  I don’t know where this journey will take us.  But I know that no matter what, God will be walking with us, and I will do my darndest to try to point him out along the way.

A Walk To Remember

This past Saturday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Michael and I decided to do something different this year, and we participated in a walk hosted by Hope Mommies of Dallas, a pregnancy and infant loss support organization.

There were so many people there, honoring their little ones.  We saw friends from church who had experienced stories similar to ours.  I realized that this walk held so much symbolism.  We all have walked this journey, and are continuing to walk this journey, but we walk it together.20161015_091241

After the walk, they had a balloon release, which was absolutely beautiful.  I was very emotional as I watched the balloons float away.

I couldn’t help but think, as the balloons bobbed and danced and floated away, that all of these children were together, dancing in the presence of Jesus, being held in his arms until the day we will all be reunited again.

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Feeling Alone

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance day is October 15th, this Saturday.  In fact, the whole month of October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  But on this Saturday, many parents will come together with their communities to remember the children that they have lost.  Some will attend events hosted by support groups, while others might spend the day lighting a candle.

While I am so beyond blessed to have the online and in-person community that I have supporting me, there are times when I feel alone.  Pregnancy loss is different for so many families.  Outcomes and situations are different.  And my particular situation, within my community, is different from anyone else I know.  I am trying to branch out a little, especially among support groups, to people who are more in my situation, but it’s hard.

Most of the people in my life have kids.  They may have had miscarriages or experienced the loss of a child, but they still have kids that they were able to raise on this earth.  Even though I have two daughters, society still puts me in the pre-kids phase, and in suburbia Texas, it makes me stick out like a sore thumb.

I get church advertisements in the mail touting great kids programs, free babysitting, and mom’s night out events.  There is a host of events that happen for kids or kid groups.  So much of this community has been tailored to the nuclear family.  I have three or four elementary schools within a mile of my house, not to mention the daycares, middle and high schools.  Wherever I drive, I’m reminded of what I do not have.  Whenever I turn on the TV, check the mail, go out to eat, go to the movies, it’s always there.  A reminder of what I desperately want but cannot have yet.

But life is not hard.  I have amazing friends who surround me with love, willing to talk trashy TV with me.  I have completely supportive family members who have never pressured me about when we are going to have kids even before we lost our daughters.  I have an amazing husband who loves me, takes care of me, and supports everything I do.  We make our decisions together and I trust him so much.  And ultimately, I have a God who has made his presence known in my life through people, his creation, and other ways.  I don’t have the words to completely explain how lucky and blessed I am in this life.

But I know what it means to feel alone, and it breaks my heart that there are women who have to go through their losses, their dashed hopes, and their own desperate longings on their own.  That’s why spreading this awareness is so important to me.  I want to ask each of you to show your support on October 15th.  Last year, I asked people to share the pictures below on their social media.  I want to ask the same this year.  Or, you can light a candle at 7pm in any time zone, take a picture and share.

To use the images below, right click and “save picture as” to your desktop.  Then you can upload it to your own social media.  The We Remember are for those who are supporting, and the I Remember is for those who have experienced pregnancy loss.

Thank you, my wonderful community, for walking with me through each of my losses.  You help me through my moments of feeling alone.  And ultimately, I’m not alone.  Thank you for being with me on my journey.

The Ring Theory: Or How You Can Help Others Deal With Loss

I was having lunch with some friends recently.  Of course, the topic of my recent loss came up, and we started discussing the things people say that they shouldn’t.  One of my friends made an astute observation that we aren’t really prepared for how to deal with losses like this.  I mean, in the church, if there’s a funeral, you make a casserole.  If there’s a baby, you make a casserole.  But if there is a pregnancy loss, there isn’t a baseline expected and acceptable behavior.

To make it even harder, pregnancy loss isn’t the same experience for every couple that goes through it.  It happens at different times throughout the pregnancy, for different reasons.  Sometimes it’s expected, sometimes not.  Sometimes it’s broadcasted, sometimes not.  There may be different triggers.  Or it may be okay to talk about some things, but not others.  The dad and mom can be affected differently and need different things for their grief.  And it can even be different with each pregnancy loss if the woman has had more than one.

So what are you supposed to do?  I’ve read a lot of great articles over the years about what not to say.  To stick to the “I’m sorry” or “I’m praying for you” or “What do you need?” which are all great responses, but there’s something else I would like to add.

It’s called Ring Theory. I learned about this theory from a therapist.  There is also a great op-ed piece about it here.

Basically, it’s the healthy way to interact with someone who is going through a loss.  So, imagine the rings of a tree.  In the center is the couple who is going through a pregnancy loss (this could also work for other kinds of loss as well).  In the next ring are the people who are also affected by the loss, but not quite as directly.  In this ring, I would put our parents, for example.  As the rings move out, the people in those rings are farther away from this particular loss, not as directly affected.

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The main rule of the Ring Theory is “Comfort In, Dump Out.”  What that means is the person or persons in the very middle can scream or vent or whatever they need to do (maybe not talk about the grief at all), and the rings outside of that can only give comfort.

So, for example, the direct family members or close friends can seek comfort from the community or acquaintances, but they shouldn’t try to seek comfort from the person or persons in the very middle circle.  The person or persons in the very middle, their only job is to survive, to vent, and to do what they need to do to grieve.  They have more control over the conversation.  So, you seek comfort (or dump) to the circles bigger than yours, and you give comfort to the circles smaller than yours.

And comfort is not telling your personal story, giving advice, or sharing your feelings about the loss with the people in the smaller circles.  It’s mainly listening.  If you need to vent, that is what the bigger circles are for.

Understanding the Comfort In, Dump Out method helps me build healthy boundaries in my relationships, especially in a time where everything feels chaotic and crazy.  I’m very blessed to have such a wonderful community around me that respects space and boundaries, whether they know about this theory or not.  I hope to spread this idea more to help other women who have dealt with pregnancy loss be able to communicate their own needs and healthy boundaries in their communities as well.

Where We Go From Here…

I’m more apprehensive about this post than I was about my previous two posts.  Of course, this is what is best for us and for me right now, and I know I will have the support of my friends and family.  It’s just still a little difficult to share because of the stigma that is attached it these kinds of decisions.

Before we lost our daughter, Michael and I decided that it would be best for me to stay home after she was born.  Basically, it would cost the same for me to work part time and pay for daycare as it would for me to stay home.  And given that choice, staying home made the most sense.

After we found out she had passed, we were faced with the decision – do I stop working like we planned, or do I try to continue working?  I remember how hard it was for me to go back to work after my first daughter died.  I ended up switching careers just a few months later.  Also, last week, the doctor discussed how the next pregnancy would have more doctor appointments and more tests.  I knew that would be difficult to balance even with a part time job.

So, we decided that it would be best for me to stop working.  My last day at the non-profit will be this Friday.  After that, I will continue focusing on the healing process.  I want to get to a healthier place – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I want to set in place good habits that will carry into my next pregnancy and beyond.  Then, once I get cleared by the doctors, we hope to start trying again.

I’m anxious to start this new normal.  I am both intimidated and excited.  I plan to continue writing, especially on wherever this new journey will take me.  I also hope to get back into working with dogs, both with pet sitting and through volunteering at the SPCA, although I don’t know to what extent that will be.  For now, I’m taking it one day/hour/moment at a time, just trying to make healthy choices towards recovery.  Again, thank you for walking through this with me, in your prayers or in person.