This is the third part of the story of my first stillbirth in November 2014. The First and Second parts are linked in this sentence, but this was probably the most comprehensive and cohesive post of the three.Continue reading
Last week, I talked about how I lost trust in community over the last 10 years, but especially more recently. A lot of you reached out publicly and privately, online and in person, to share your own frustrations with specific communities in your life. It is always encouraging to know I’m not alone, but my heart breaks that communities at large have become so fractured.
My own observations feel that this has been a long time coming. The pandemic was just the physical manifestation of things that have been happening for a while. In my life time, we have had large established entities fail us. We no longer have the security of our schools since Columbine and Sandy Hook. We no longer have the security of our American soil after 9/11. We no longer have the security of buying a home or our economy after the recession and housing crisis. Even in the last year, we have seen failings in our legal system, corporations, and many more, even in our own churches.
And in this pandemic, there has been no consensus in our government or even in our medical field. While ER doctors who are on the brink of breakdown are begging people to get vaccinated, we have nurses who are mourning the loss of their job because they don’t trust the vaccine. I have seen people be berated for wearing masks in a grocery store, while others are yelled at for not wearing them at all.
But regardless of how or why, which I’m sure people with much more expertise that I have are already trying to figure it out, I think we can agree that community is broken. But, it’s not gone forever. We were made for community. I truly believe that it will break through, that somehow through compassion and conversation, wounds will heal.
I’m in a unique position right now. While waiting for our impending move to a new home (the house is still being built so we have to wait until that is done), I have been taking the time to figure out what I am looking for in building or joining communities moving forward.
First, healthy boundaries. I am choosing to trust my own voice given to me by God to remind myself that I am valuable and worthy of any community I choose to join. In the past, when I’ve moved to a new area, I always started with a posture of proving my worth by exhausting myself in busyness so that people in that community would label me in positive light. Without that being my goal anymore, I can now focus on developing healthy relationships, making commitments when I’m ready and feel that I can devote the time and energy required.
Second, finding places that don’t participate in gatekeeping. I want to find places and groups where anyone would feel welcome, safe and loved walking through the doors. No matter how long they stayed, they didn’t feel judged and were met not with a put together attitude but one of humility and love.
Third, finding people who lead with love, that are willing to sit in the tension of differing opinions, devoted to listening with humility and being okay with not having everything figured out. None of us have all the answers, though we have lots of opinions. Trite, cliched comments that attempt to sweep others under the rug need not apply.
And finally, having an awareness for the needs of the community. Not just in service projects, but in learning how to develop relationships with people who don’t look like them, think like them, talk like them. Leading the conversations with questions and curiosity instead of judgment and close-mindedness.
Our communities are fractured, but I still have hope. I have already begun to develop relationships with people who have hearts like the ones I described above. I see that as a sign that God is guiding me. I will continue to pray for our communities, that God moves in big ways. And I look forward to seeing where we will find these places and people that will make a difference that we desperately need.
I want to disclaimer this last post of the series. And it will be in two parts. In talking about trusting my body, trusting my own voice, I was moving from a place where I questioned those things to a place where I’m finally listening to them. This first of two posts is about the opposite, and it is coming from a place of grief, confusion, anger, and sadness. But I need to share it.
I have lost trust in my community.
This is not just about the crazy stuff happening in our country, though it is a part of it. This is something that I haven’t really addressed for the past 10 years, mostly because I’ve blamed myself, that I wasn’t consistent enough, wasn’t giving enough, wasn’t thoughtful enough, grateful enough. That’s why I wake up on a random Saturday morning and see other people celebrating their years and decades long friendships with people who have been there for the ups and downs, and I just start crying.
It really hit hard when my second daughter’s 5 year stillbirth anniversary came and went and no one reached out. I get it. It’s a family anniversary of a sad milestone. Something I can journal about and talk to a therapist and reach out to loss mom groups and take that initiative myself, right?
It hurts because I grew up with the notion as a people pleaser that I needed to be there for people as a way to show them how to be there for me. What a difference it made to acknowledge anniversaries and pain in their life, and that if I did it consistently, the right way, and was there for people, then they would do the same and be there for me. If I could anticipate their needs, then they would anticipate mine in return. It’s a weird return on investment perspective that never seemed to work out in reality. And while I’m moving away from being a people pleaser and unlearning all these expectations, I don’t know how to build relationship with people outside of this model.
But it’s not just people. It’s organizations who portray a family-like or team-like atmosphere, but end up getting all caught up in the programs and the goals and the initiatives and lose sight of the people. The need for volunteers or for people to come to them instead of reaching out and building relationships beyond buildings. It’s making decisions that exclude or abandon whole groups of people. It’s the feeling of not belonging when you or someone you love walk through the doors.
I know what it’s like to not feel heard, not feel seen, not belong. Decisions being made without you in mind because you are a minority. After my first stillbirth, I realized how much I didn’t belong in the community I was a part of. I didn’t have kids, and I had to explain it to every new person I met. And there wasn’t a place for me, unless it was a place of service, while others were getting served. But the reality was that I was drained and I needed so much, but I wasn’t the right demographic. They didn’t know what to do with me, and they wanted me to figure it out.
And that’s what I did. I looked for other communities. And I found some. And I became a part of them, but after our kid was born, I realized that we no longer fit. We didn’t belong, again. So, I went back to the original communities thinking that now I could finally belong. But being marginalized and spending time with other people who have been hurt and marginalized changed me. I kept seeing groups of people getting left out again and again. And I knew I couldn’t stay.
But now, I’m really alone. It feels like people are too busy or I’m too much of a burden, that the timing is always off or I’m just not the kind of person people want to invest in. I feel like everyone is still Facebook friends with me, but they have all unfollowed me and I’m talking into the wind or the abyss.
Anytime I write about this pain, I immediately delete it. It sounds too angry. It sounds too bitter. People are going to get mad because I’m not being grateful for the things they have done in the past or I should speak up more or not be such a hard person to be around in the first place. That I did this to myself.
There is some truth to that. We are moving out of the neighborhood we have lived in for 12 years, moving into a new city where we really don’t know anyone. We left the church where we were members for almost 14 years, without any real plan or place to plug into. I lost a lot of friends during my pregnancy loss season and didn’t make many new mom friends (thanks COVID). And on top of all that, I am horribly inconsistent because I get overwhelmed easily and forget what day it is sometimes. But I’m tired of carrying this burden. I’m tired of feeling alone.
But if I’ve learned anything, I know we are never truly alone. Yes, I believe God is walking through this season with me, but I also believe that other people feel this way too. Or they have been there. I believe we are made for community, even those who are introverted and socially awkward. And I know that it will get better, that all will be revealed in God’s perfect timing. So, I choose to share this to show others their thoughts and emotions are not wrong, their pain and hurt is valid and real, and you are worthy of love. And maybe, just maybe, this confession will lead me to the community I long for.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
We live in a society where there is this odd pressure to perform, to be “on” all the time. It’s hard with social media using edited snapshots of our lives as the effort to connect to other people. It makes it easy to hold people at a distance, and for them to hold you at a distance as well. It feels like the more “connected” I am, the more lonely I get.
So, I want to share the four steps I tend to use when pursuing an authentic relationship. And you don’t have to use them, but if you are feeling frustrated in this culture in finding close relationships, perhaps this will help.
1. Be the kind of Authentic Friend that you want to have. Typically, if you live life surrounded by passions that truly move you, you will find like-minded people in that same field. But it’s not just about interests. It’s also about the level or depth of authenticity I want to have. If I want to be around non-judgmental, “here’s all the dirt” kind of friends, then I have to be that kind of person. If I want to be accepted where I am in the journey, then I need to accept others where they are on their journey. And make sure you are the same person wherever you go. You never know where those interactions may lead or who is listening, because you might be missing out on those friendships you desperately want.
2. Be intentional about the relationship. When you get to know a person long enough, and realize that you want to have that open, authentic friendship with them, tell them. Have those awkward conversations. In the past, I’ve ideally thought that just spending a lot of time with people, or telling them a deep secret, will communicate the intentions of a deeper friendship. But I find that a deeper friendship truly develops when I lay all the cards on the table and say, “Look, I really like hanging out with you, and I want to have the kind of friendship with you where we share all the skeletons, secrets and struggles, and we react with encouragement, support, and acceptance.”
It doesn’t always have to be that deep though. It could be as simple as, “I’m wondering if we could hang out at lunch every Monday and just spend time together, get to know each other more.” I find that laying out the expectations helps the friendship more than vague games of will they, won’t they be a real friend.
3. Accept rejection for what it is. It is hard to put everything out there only to be shut down in the end. However, that rejection is so much more honest than dancing around the relationship until someone stops returning the other one’s calls. Sometimes the rejection may just be bad timing. One person may just have a lot on their plate, or is going through a transition, or just simply needs to work on internal issues before accepting that request. Authentic relationships are vulnerable and require work from both people involved. It’s hard to really open up when you feel swallowed by life in general.
And it’s just as important to be honest in rejecting others, too. I’m sometimes afraid to say no because I don’t want to hurt the other person or be left out of something in the future. However, it’s important to communicate where you stand as it is to know where they stand as well.
4. And of course, bring God into the relationship. I would put this at number one, but really, it fits into all three of the above steps. We learn to be authentic from our God who is the author of authenticity. We are intentional because he showed us intentionality in his pursuit of us. He handles rejection pretty much on a daily basis, and can be there for us when we go through our own rejection.
Friendships are messy, whether on the playground, at our jobs, or in our communities. But authentic relationships are another way God is glorified in how he works through brokenness to restore us. And those relationships can help us continue the journey together, living life in the Kingdom.
One of the common responses I received from people in our life who have supported and loved us in this experience was “Grieve how you need to grieve.” I’m a pretty blunt person, so I didn’t think this would be a problem. However, it wasn’t the temptation to hide how I was feeling, it was a fear that I wasn’t grieving in the right way. After seeing people in similar situations on forums and talking to well meaning friends and family members, I questioned whether or not I was grieving in a way that was healthy. I wasn’t thinking the same things other women were saying, or doing the same things they were doing. I truly felt I was in some kind of denial.
However, I still miss being pregnant and feeling her move. I think about the might-have-beens especially through these months when I should still be pregnant and what I might have been doing at this point if I still was. But when I look at the whole picture, I see that what has happened has happened. Instead of focusing on my loss, I want to focus more on doing the things I need to do to heal physically and emotionally so that one day I can get pregnant again, and hopefully be able to hold that baby in my arms and watch them grow.
Even though this is how I felt on the inside, I struggled those first two weeks, trying to grieve the way others around me were grieving because I thought that was how to do it the right way. It wasn’t helping, but I was so afraid that the way I wanted to grieve wasn’t going to help me either. So, I talked to my doctor during an emotional check up (which they do at my clinic, and it’s awesome). I sat in the room and just opened up to her about the struggle I had with my grief. Turns out, I wasn’t that abnormal at all. In fact, half of the couples she had encountered dealt with their miscarriages in the same way. It was a completely healthy way to deal with it and move on from it.
The only way you can be unhealthy in your grief is if you aren’t honest about it. If you are angry at God and want to scream and yell, go for it. If you don’t feel angry at God at all, don’t try to force yourself to be. If you need to have a memorial or funeral to say goodbye, do it, but don’t put yourself through that if it doesn’t help you to move on. Just by embracing the way I grieve and being honest about what I need (or don’t need) when I need it (or don’t need it) has truly helped me move through this process, more than trying to grieve in a way that wasn’t natural or helpful to me.
There are different needs for different people, even at different times. That’s part of why grief is so uncomfortable, especially when you are walking through it with someone else. There isn’t really the right word or phrase that makes things better or makes the process faster or slower, and the same thing doesn’t always work all the time. Hugs helped a lot for me, but sometimes it can feel claustrophobic. Having someone to talk to about what has happened helps me process things, but I have also craved a lot of alone time, organizing my thoughts and my home. The best words spoken to me were “This sucks. This road is hard. But we will be with you if you need us,” but sometimes I would much rather just sit in silence with someone.
On a side note, when you sit in silence with someone, it allows God to fill the space between. Ultimately, he is working through them and you in that very moment. Perhaps talking through moments of silence really only drowns out what the Holy Spirit wants you to hear. I have found through this past experience how much comfort and strength I receive from the silence, from the moments when nothing is said at all. And I appreciate the people who are willing to be there with me in that silence.
I know I’m not alone. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we have received. Those who have walked this path before have been willing to walk with us and have given us hope. You are all arms of strength to me and blessings from God. I am continually reminded that though this is a storm in our life, it is also just a moment in our eternity. I know that this story isn’t over yet, and I can’t wait to read the next chapter.
Part 3: Thanksgiving
It’s been a week since I first got the diagnosis that I had lost our baby. Despite the realities of our situation that I’ve experienced this week, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the silver lining blessings I’ve experienced as well. I tend to describe my personality as an “annoying optimist,” someone who no matter what finds silver linings in any situation, no matter how crazy those may be. It can be somewhat annoying, but it’s the way I cope. Anyway, here are only a few of the amazing things that have happened this week.
The medical staff: The clinic I go to has five different doctors there. The one that I have seen the most, Dr. W, was the one that saw me for both miscarriage diagnoses. She arrived right after I delivered last week. She said when she saw it was me that Monday, she just prayed and hoped that the sonogram would show a healthy baby. She even brought in another doctor in the hopes that she was wrong, because she wanted to be so wrong. The doctor she brought in happened to be on call the morning after I delivered, Dr. D. Dr. D said that she wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just taken care of physically, but emotionally as well. She said 50% of women who go through this get put on an anti-depressant for a short period of time to help, and that I shouldn’t feel weird if I need to take that option. Both doctors were such a blessing.
Not only the doctors, but the nurses at the hospital. Nurses in the L&D ward are a special type of people. Every single one had no problem staying there and talking to me when I needed to talk, even if it was just clinical questions to distract me from what was going on. The day nurse was so positive and straight forward. I never went into a single part of that experience without knowing exactly what to expect and what to watch for. And it didn’t matter if I only met them once or twice, every nurse was patient and caring, never acting like I was a burden or an inconvenience. They even said if I just needed to talk, they would be there with a quick push of the call button.
The community. To say that I’m overwhelmed by the community here and online is an understatement. There are so many people who were involved. There’s Lori who came to visit the evening I got my diagnosis and at lunch on Wednesday. There’s Tod and Candace who came to pray Tuesday night and visited Wednesday evening. There were the myriad of texts, Facebook messages, and emails we received Tuesday and Wednesday from friends and family, and continue to receive every day (I may not comment back, but believe me, your words are cherished). My family has also sent their words of comfort and helped where they could. My mom handled all the pictures and birth stuff from the hospital (as well as being emotional support) which was very needed and I’m so thankful she was able to be here.
Also, my mom shared with me a box given to her at the hospital from a women’s ministry made up of women who had gone through what I had. In it were notes, verses, a Bible, a journal, and other things to offer encouragement and support to me. It was unexpected but appreciated.
And then this past weekend, Lori dropped off a basket of goodies given to us from families at church who wanted to do something. She said it was overwhelming to see how everyone came together for our little family. I completely agree. We also received encouragement from our neighbors who were so excited for us and now offer us a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. We know that we are loved and that we are so humbled by this experience.
My husband. There are no words for the amazing man that is my husband. Throughout this entire pregnancy, he has been there for me. In the first trimester, when I was sick, he came home after 12 hour days to cook and clean while I laid on the couch. In the second trimester, he would talk about our baby or how beautiful I was, and he would work on nursery projects or find little gifts or gift ideas for the future. And then when I lost the baby, he has been there for me every step of the way, handling all the details when I couldn’t. He stays up with me, when I wake up crying, talking me through it, listening to me, and staying up until I fall back asleep.
This experience has already brought us closer, even more so than the one last year. Throughout this pregnancy we had learned to become a team. We have been there for each other through a lot of changes and ups and downs. And I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side through all of this. To say I’m blessed or lucky to have him in my life is a complete understatement. I thought I understood what it meant to marry your best friend, but I had no idea until now. And what really blows my mind, is that he lost a baby too. He’s going through loss and pain as well and still stands strong next to me. Even though the experience for him is different, it’s still the same too. His strength and love are immeasurable blessings, and I’m so overwhelmed that I get to call this great man my husband.
My relationship with God. There is absolutely no way I could be upright and typing without the strength of God in me. All of the above blessings are gifts from God, and I know that. I am reminded that I’m not alone in my loss even in the Bible. Job lost all of his children, questioned God, and God answered him. I know that God will answer my questions too. Plus, there are a myriad of stories of women in the Bible who struggled with infertility – Rachel, Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth. I know that God understands my grief, and just based on the amount of stories included in the Bible, I know he has a special place in his heart for women who go through this at any level.
Additionally, God has put women in my life that have been through what I have that I know are there for me. I don’t think that was ever a coincidence that they are in my life. This situation sucks, but I know that God hasn’t forsaken me. Like I’ve said before, God doesn’t keep me from going through the storms, but he promises to be there every step of the way.
So, coming home on Thanksgiving day from this ordeal, I don’t think was a coincidence either. God answered prayers that there were no complications and that the process happened quickly and with little physical pain. We have a community around us, some we don’t even know, that have offered love and support throughout this ordeal as we heal both physically and emotionally. And for these reasons we are truly grateful.
I don’t want to make light of this. I’m still going through this every day, day by day. Some moments are really hard. Some are easier. I imagine the easier moments will outweigh the harder ones eventually, but that’s not the reality right now. I wanted to write all of this down now for two reasons. One, to let others who may go through something similar have some idea of what to expect (although every experience will be different, even made with different choices, and that’s okay). And also, so that I can remember where I’ve been. I won’t be here forever. And that knowledge along with the love and support around me helps me go through each day, each minute, each moment towards healing.
I can’t believe it’s the end of the month, especially this month. Life has been chaotic, uncertain, and just simply crazy. I should have known it was going to be crazy since it started with Michael coming home with the stomach bug (which I never, thankfully, got). As I’m now in full swing of my second trimester, my brain is ready to make all sorts of decisions that are just not makeable at the moment, which brought some unneeded and definitely unwanted stress.
While I can’t go into details about it, I wanted to share something pretty incredible. One day in this month, I wrote out all of the things I was worried about, just so I would get them out of my head. Literally, eight days later, all of the things I was worried about had some answer to them. Granted, some of them were “wait until such and such happens,” but it wasn’t this big unknown void that I felt I was standing in front of anymore. Actual plans and options started to materialize with little work from me.
This month, in our small group, we each shared one word needs that we could pray for each other. My word was peace. Well, Michael took that word and ran with it. Every morning, he prayed that I would have peace in that day, no matter what was happening. To say he’s been amazing throughout this pregnancy would be an understatement. He goes above and beyond for me every day, even if his own day was particularly stressful. Even though we have always been a team in our marriage, it feels like it’s morphed into this super-team. Without a word, we just seem to pick up the slack for one another and support each other every day. I’ve never felt closer to him, and I can tell it’s made a difference to me in my own life. I feel more relaxed…more, at peace.
But this feeling of peace has gone beyond the circle of my marriage. I feel it in my community as well. Every conversation I have has been so uplifting. We’ve received so many unexpected blessings from people, that I can’t even begin to recount all of them. I have been encouraged in any future decisions that whatever I decide, I have a force of people surrounding me, ready to be in my corner no matter what.
Even though my husband and my community have given me more peace that I could have imagined, I know that all of this is really a gift from God. He has answered my prayers over and over again. He has made his presence known, even in my most oblivious moments. I can’t glorify and thank him enough for the peace he has given me over these past two years, and continues to grant me throughout these transitions in my life. I don’t feel like I deserve the things he’s given my little family this month, and I’m just in awe of it all. He is truly the one in control, and for that I am totally thankful, and at peace.