This was the post I wrote hours after finding out that we lost our second daughter in August 2016. A year later, almost to the day, we would get the positive pregnancy test that would bring us our rainbow baby.Continue reading
I wrote this post last year on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Everything I wrote still resonates. I hope these words uplift you today.Continue reading
This post was written on April 26, 2013, after I found out that there was no heartbeat in my first pregnancy, before I actually had the miscarriage. I wrote this blog because I felt like I had told so many people that I was pregnant, and I didn’t want to have to go back and tell them all that I wasn’t anymore.Continue reading
This month is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. On October 15th, we light a candle at 7pm to remember the babies we have lost.
I’m a loss mom. I’ve had one miscarriage, followed by two stillbirths. We are so grateful that after these losses we had our beautiful rainbow baby, who is now three. But we know that isn’t the story for everyone. We mourn with our friends who have had similar journeys, and pray for comfort and love for those still waiting for rainbows.
This month is going to be incredibly busy for my family, as we prepare for a move as well as the season of holidays that is fast approaching. But I want to share a few blog posts that I have written in the past over the next few weeks, parts of my journey some of you may not know. So, each Friday I will share a blog post from the past regarding my personal journey or some reflection on that journey.
If these resonate you, if you are going through something similar, and especially if you are grieving, know that you aren’t alone. Feel free to comment with your own story or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And always remember, you are loved, you are worthy, you are valuable just as you are, no matter where you are in your story or what the next chapter may bring.
In the first year of my kid’s life, I was desperate to find a schedule that solved every issue we faced. But even to this day, not one of the many schedule suggestions online worked for us. Namely because this kid wakes up between 6 and 6:30 almost every single morning, and apparently, the majority of the schedules out there cannot fathom a child getting up that early. The best piece of advice for us was “feed the baby when they are hungry and sleep when they sleep,” but it required me to slow down, tune into my kid’s body, and look and listen for cues.
That was extremely hard for me. And one of the reasons it was so difficult was because I wasn’t doing it with my own body. I hadn’t for a long time. I didn’t realize that this was a major barrier at the time, but looking back, and after an extremely good amount of therapy this last year, I discovered that somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting myself.
I stopped trusting my body. Instead, I let society, community, and culture dictate how I should take care of this body, what it should look like, what it should be able to do. I chased one diet after another, one schedule after another, researched every culturally successful person’s morning and evening routine, trying to glean some wisdom that would make me feel happy, healthy, put together, organized, and whole. Even church culture promoted a certain standard to chase, from the clothes I wore to how I should act in every relationship I had, even how to grieve.
But this spring, I started listening to my body. At first, it was chaotic because it had so much to say, but once I stilled, once I allowed it to speak, it reminded me of the truths that God had woven into my heart from a very small age. I am loved. I am beautiful. I am strong. I cannot be defined by the ideas around me because I will never completely fit. I was not made to completely fit. I was made to stand on my own, to shine, to sing, to dance, to smile and laugh, to be in relationship with the one true Creator of the universe.
Now, that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But I am still in the early stages of this realization. I still struggle with the beauty of my body. Something that I’ve seen work for other women who have had children and are trying accept their body after it goes through so many changes in pregnancy is the fact that their body carried those babies and brought them into the world. But that doesn’t completely work for me. My body has a 25% success rate so far in that area. And before I had my kid, I was carrying the weight of failed pregnancies. So, how do I find beauty in a body I thought betrayed me?
It’s not easy. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, when I recently started doing 20-30 minutes of yoga a day, I started to feel more in tune with my body. I’ve been doing yoga for about 20 years now, off and on, but I don’t think there is something mystical or magical about yoga. It’s about breathing, listening to the basic breath coming into your body and releasing out of it. It’s about being aware when your muscles stretch and your bones creak or pop. It’s not about the positions or getting to the next level for me, it’s about the slowing down.
When I slow down, I see my body in action. It actually tells me much earlier than I realized exactly what it needs. There are the big signals, like the extreme pain of a kidney stone, but it also tells me in the small nudges towards hunger, loneliness, thirst. I also recognize that this isn’t new. We learn this in science class, but it’s drowned out by words like food addiction and laziness. These kinds of words have convinced me not to trust my body, that it is too broken to communicate. When in reality, it’s been communicating just fine, it’s just that how my body works doesn’t seem to match how my culture says it’s supposed to work. And that is what I have to unlearn and let go.
It’s a work in progress. For the longest time, being busy was considered the highest achievement, but I realize now that it was keeping me from listening to the body God created, to allow it to work the way it was made to, instead having to turn to other sources who could never know my body the way I do. Right now, I have a slight headache, and I realized I hadn’t had much water this morning. Now, I wouldn’t have realized that before, I would have taken a pain pill or tried to find some quick fix, or I would have tried to muscle through it, ending up more sick, usually with something sinus related. But I stopped, listened, and I’m sipping on water between sentences. Slowly, my headache is disappearing. Of course, if it didn’t, I would try other things, but I’m not chasing the quick fixes as much anymore.
And learning to embrace my body, to listen to its cues, will not be quickly fixed either. There are days I’m frustrated that I don’t look like I did when I was 20, or fit into clothes and styles I have loved in the past. But now, I have an opportunity to really find what I love, really know who I am, and build a confidence that will see me through this life with grace, compassion and love.
It’s been well over a month of social distancing so far. There is so much I’ve learned about myself and my family and my community, living in such an unique and unprecedented time in this generation. I’ve seen a few similarities between this experience and the experience of pregnancy loss. It makes sense because both situations contain abrupt, unexpected change and grief. But there are a couple other similarities, as well.
We are all having varied experiences. While there are cases in every state of this country, I imagine that the experience living in an urban city is very different than the experience living in a rural city. Also, different states gave shelter-in-place orders at different times, affecting social and economic communities differently. Though we are seeing more and more loss moving into all sectors, some have experienced it longer than others. Some places seem to have better access to healthcare than others, which affects both anxiety and the ability to recover from the disease
The same is true in pregnancy loss. Women experience loss at different times in their pregnancies. They may experience multiple losses. Even those losses are different from each other. And access to healthcare and support can also be different among women experiencing loss, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of medical problems.
We are all having varied responses. Primarily, I believe, because we have such different experiences and beliefs, and a lot of fear of the unknown. We don’t know how this will all play out in the months and years ahead, how it will affect our economy and our health in the future. There are people who say we aren’t doing enough, while others say we are overreacting. And in all of the confusion, there are hurt feelings and loss on both sides.
This happens within the pregnancy loss community as well. I can’t tell you how many times people had an answer for what I was going through. Whether I wasn’t trying hard enough, or there was something I wasn’t doing right that was causing my loss. Or that I was overreacting about my loss and needed to move on. None of these responses were helpful, and I can imagine they aren’t helpful in this situation either.
How I Navigate It All
Since seeing the similarities between the two situations, I decided I would try to incorporate some of the thought processes and techniques that helped me through pregnancy loss into this experience as well. These worked for me, and they are great reminders, so I thought I would share them. But, disclaimer, they are in no way an exhaustive list, or a how-to list.
- I trust the opinions of my doctors over the opinions of my friends. I know this is a controversial idea. It helped that the doctors who took care of me through each pregnancy had also experienced loss and high risk in their own pregnancies. I think the same is true in this pandemic. We are all experiencing this together, and I think doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers want this to be over as quickly and safely as possible, just like we do.
- I also gave grace to those same doctors. They are educated and, yet, they are still humans. They don’t have all the answers, but they are making choices in an effort to save lives, whether pandemic or pregnancy. I am willing to sit in the tension and support those that have made their life’s work to take care of the sick and heal them and prevent others from being sick the best they can.
- I practice gratitude. I wish I could honestly say I do this intentionally every day. I do it, most definitely, when my anxiety is high. And it does come naturally to me in quiet moments when I’m making food for my family or folding clothes or interacting with my son (okay, that’s not as quiet of a moment). But gratitude has to be more than just being thankful, it has to breed generosity and kindness.
- I use whatever gifts or resources I can to encourage others. Again, this isn’t done perfectly. I could do this better. It’s a day-to-day struggle with my tendency to introvert myself into a hole versus keeping my eyes open to the needs of others. But I’m not too hard on myself, there are glimmers of who I want to be sprinkled throughout my day, whether that is checking in on a neighbor, sharing an encouraging word with a friend, or keeping a generous mentality over my resources. Or just providing safe space.
- I give space for others to grieve how and what they need to grieve. Our situation is different than other people’s situations. We all seem to be grieving just a little differently, but if I have learned anything from the pregnancy loss community, it’s that everyone has a right to their grief without others belittling it. I may not completely understand their experience, but I respect it and I honor it.
Of course, leaning on God and allowing him to guide me is interwoven into each of the above 5 things. My trust begins with knowing God is in control and sees a bigger picture than I ever will. That allows me to trust others with grace, find gratitude, generosity, and kindness in all things, and give space to others in their own journey. I don’t have it all figured out, and never will, but God is greater than my understanding, and I can rest in the hope of his promises today, and every day in the future.
All around the country today, there will be candles lit for babies lost. I became a part of this community in 2013. It’s a community of compassion and welcome, though no member wishes anyone had to join it.
Recently, I was sitting in the OB waiting room, waiting for an annual check up appointment. I saw across the room another woman and her mother, both intently staring into their phones. And I noticed the tears quietly streaming down both their faces. I knew this look all to well.
The woman was approached by another woman in the room, which convicted me to join this small group. It turned out that the woman who was crying was having a 9 week miscarriage. The other woman who approached had also experienced pregnancy loss. Encouragement was shared, and then space and privacy given to the grieving family after her husband arrived.
It was a powerful moment in what can feel like an isolating journey. 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss. I guarantee that someone you know has gone through it, even if they have never talked about it. But our society doesn’t reflect these facts.
But October 15th gives us an opportunity to remember. Remember the children we have lost. Remember those precious moments of hope and expectation. The positive pregnancy tests, the heartbeats, the in-womb dance parties. My daughters are as much a part of my story as my living son is. What is the saying? “As long as I have breath, my baby you shall be.”
If you want to take part in today, remember the babies who are no longer with us, light a candle tonight at 7 pm, in all time zones. And if you are grieving your own loss, know that you aren’t alone in your remembering. There is a community here surrounding you in love, thought, and prayer.
I did a series on my blog called Continuing the Conversation about Pregnancy and Infant Loss. As I would research articles online about recent conversations on this topic, I started noticing a trend. A lot of these posts online would start out with “We don’t talk about (miscarriage, infertility, etc) very much.”
Even though 1 in 4 women experience loss , I still seem to live in a world where that statistic is not realized (and that’s the American statistic. One of the most technologically advanced, medically advanced, innovative countries, and we still experience infertility and loss 25% of the time). I still get comments at the store from the cashier or some other stranger who suggests that I need to have another child like it is as easy as picking laundry detergent on aisle 12.
Being on this side of the road now, it’s easy to see the struggle, the tears, the waiting, the dashed hopes, and all of the pain that comes with simply trying to add another member to your family. There doesn’t really seem to be a simple way to do it, despite how much people have suggested all sorts of “easy answers” to our complicated struggle in the past. So, I thought I would take a step back, back in time, to when I was that newly wedded wife who was afraid her birth control wasn’t going to work, and she would get pregnant way before she was ready. The first few times I even heard about a friend struggling with infertility, all the responses that I would eventually hear in my own situation popped into my head, and sometimes even out of my mouth.
I just simply didn’t understand. I thought I did. I thought infertility or miscarriage were things that happened in extreme cases, that all this anxiety may just be an overreaction and that they needed to just relax (I know, I know, I was young and ignorant). It wasn’t until I had the term “unexplained” attached to my own stillbirths that I realized the medical research doesn’t actually have this all figured out. It’s is not a simple cause and effect. It’s a case by case situation. And each case has to be approached with compassion and patience.
But why, when we have all of this evidence, all these stories shared in books and online, do we still have to endure the conversations in the grocery store or at church or even in our own families? And I realized, speaking for myself most of all, that this world is not as stable as we would like it to be, that pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, working hard, being diligent, saying the right things, praying the right prayers, checking all the boxes just doesn’t guarantee anything.
Personally, I like structure. I like the routine. I like to know that if I do A and B, then C will always be the result. But life doesn’t happen that way. Kids die before their parents. Loving wives can still be cheated on. “Til Death Do You Part” can happen way before it should. People who love their jobs and are good at them still lose them. Houses, even in gated communities, can still be vandalized. Kids from loving, supportive homes can still make bad choices in their life.
I’m not saying this because I’m just throwing up my hands, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” about it all. But since we all know and experience instability in our lives, we have an amazing opportunity to extend patience and compassion to those who are experiencing it in their own life. To acknowledge that there is no easy answer that will fix things. To listen and be willing to sit in the silence of grief. To understand that I won’t understand every situation completely, and extend grace to those around me who could be having the worst day of their life. To approach every conversation without all the answers.
This is challenging for me. I like being in control and knowing how things end. I don’t like being uncomfortable or have anyone around me that’s sad. I love laughing and having living room dance parties and late-night board game sessions. I love stories with hopeful and happy endings. I like sunshiny days in the garden. I like seeing other people experience joy and good surprises.
But life is both these good things and the bad stuff, too. And it’s healthy to acknowledge them both in our lives and the lives of others. As a Christian, I think it’s a big part of being a follower of Christ. He wept and laughed and got outraged. He felt all the feelings without fear or shame. In all the instability, he is a rock. A cornerstone to all the hope in the world. I want to use that hope in Christ to further my growth in how I interact with others, forgiving the hurtful, ignorant comments because I understand the need for control and distaste for the uncomfortable. And in the same way, I want to watch the words that come out of my own mouth, that they bring hope instead of hurt, silence when it is preferred, and enough compassion to acknowledge that I don’t understand, but I’m still gonna be here anyway.
Since I won’t be around this year on the blog for Mother’s Day, I wanted to share a few thoughts.
This will be my second Mother’s day with my son. Though, to be fair, last year was a blur because I was still hopped up on pain pills recovering from delivery. This past year has been a wonderful whirlwind, but I can’t help thinking how past years have been for me. Years of waiting and wondering. Years of loss and grief. Years watching others experience the kind of motherhood I desperately wanted.
Before my son was born, I felt like an outsider. And after he was born, honestly, life felt normal again. On the outside, I look like a typical suburban stay at home mom going to the grocery or the library with my adorable son in tow. The pain and grief is still there, but life is much easier to navigate day to day. And sometimes I feel guilty that it got easier. And sometimes it’s hard to enjoy because I keep waiting for the next crisis, the other shoe to drop.
So, this year, I’m giving myself permission to completely enjoy Mother’s Day. To embrace the gratitude and to celebrate the other moms and maternal figures around me. And giving permission is sometimes just what we need.
So, you have permission to love or hate Mother’s day. You have permission to cocoon yourself in on that day or seek community if you want. You have permission to remember babies you have lost or babies you long to have. You have permission to celebrate the children in your life whose lives you have nurtured and loved. You have permission to hide from the kids to read a book or spend the entire day playing with them. You have permission to celebrate the joy of the last year or just the fact that you survived. You have permission to not have kids or desire kids at all and see this day as a day to celebrate other women in your life. You even have permission to celebrate this day with your pets, because fur-babies need love and nurturing, too.
Any way you celebrate the second Sunday in May is appropriate. Even if it is just the second Sunday in May and nothing else. But no matter how you celebrate or don’t, just know you are worthy and valuable for who you are right now, and that truth doesn’t change, no matter what.
Finally, I want to share a few other Mother’s Day reminder posts that I have written over the years. The links are below.