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.

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Miscarriage and the Media

When I had my first miscarriage, I didn’t feel like there was much conversation about pregnancy loss in the media or in my community.  One of the consequences of silence is the isolation women feel when they are going through their grief.  That’s why I talk about it.  It’s why I’m open about our journey, even though I have no idea where it will go.

But in the last three years, pregnancy loss has become more of a conversation in the media.  The Zuckerbergs coming forth about their fertility struggles.  Jay-Z included a small tribute to the baby he and Beyonce lost in one of his rap songs.  Courtney Cox, Nicole Kidman, and Pink have all been open about the losses they have had in their life.

Maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive to this subject right now, but I have noticed this Fall TV season has had a lot of discussion about pregnancy loss.  The timing of these shows make it difficult for me to be able to watch them on a continuous basis, but I wanted to share some of the scenes that impacted me most.

This is Us.

I can’t watch this show right now, but I still wanted to see this scene play out.  I feel the same way this doctor felt about the loss of his first child.  I feel like my daughters have put me on a path that will go on to help others who struggle, not just with pregnancy loss, but with all kinds of grief.  Whether that’s on this blog or a conversation over lemonade.

Life in Pieces

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There isn’t a clip from this past week’s episode, but I caught the tail end of the season premiere while waiting to watch Pure Genius, and I was caught off guard.  The family had found out that Greg and Jen were expecting another child, but what they didn’t know was that Jen had miscarried.  They had planned a surprise shower, but after Greg told them what happened, they tried to hide the evidence of the shower as best they could.  But in the last scene, Jen came across a onesie meant for their daughter announcing that she would be a big sister, and Jen left the room upset.  It was at that point, the matriarch of the family, Joan, followed Jen and shared her own miscarriage story.  It’s a different story than the “This is Us” story, but it proves that no two pregnancy losses are dealt with the same way.

Pure Genius

While this wasn’t pregnancy loss per se, there was a pregnancy with severe complications in the first episode.  The mother had lymphoma, and the pregnancy itself was a miracle.  But a miracle with a lot of complications, which resulted in the baby being born very prematurely.  While the ending of the episode was less realistic due to the use of the technological advances in the show, it did show the struggle and anxiety that women can go through being pregnant with a real chance of losing their baby.

I’m glad that this has become more of a conversation in our mainstream culture, but we have a long way to go in the way we talk about loss and grief.  Allowing others to process the changes in their life in their own time, grieving the way they need to grieve.  Sharing our own stories to encourage and embolden others on our journey.  Acknowledging their value and worth with love and respect.

Whether we have experienced loss in our lives yet or not, we can still be beacons of hope and love to each other.  And having stories shared through television or celebrities is a good start, but we need to also be willing to be open to those around us, whether by sharing or just listening.  Unafraid of what life may bring because we are all walking this road together with a God who faithfully walks beside us.

Have you seen any other episodes lately where the writers accurately portrayed pregnancy loss or the real anxieties that come with pregnancy?

A Typical Day

My friends are amazing.  They are so supportive and aware of my struggle with starting a family.  I know I’m pretty open about it because I feel like God has put it on my heart to share.  I’m so happy that other, more public figures, are sharing these things as well.  It happens so much more often than even I realize.  Keeping that conversation going is therapeutic for me, and it helps others to be even more aware of how to support those of us living through it.

So in today’s post, I’m going to share a typical day of dealing with my struggle.  This is a compilation day, so not everything in this day happens all at once but some or most of it does.  So, here we go.

I wake up in the morning and get my period, confirmation that I am, yet again, not pregnant.  I turn on the TV for weather and traffic and they have a news segment about parenthood or new moms or how to get your kids motivated.  Then, I get in the car and on the radio, one of the DJs of the morning talk show is expecting their first kid any day now.

I check my social media at lunch and there is usually at least one or two announcements or pregnancy updates or baby pictures on Instagram or Facebook.  But most of the feed (especially on Instagram) consists of dogs and planners, so it’s not too much of a bombardment.

On the ride home from work, the radio plays some trigger songs, songs that are about being a parent or songs that connect me to those memories of losing my daughter.

And because two years ago I signed up on a baby website when I was pregnant, I get a box of free formula in the mail or advertisements from local photographers about my baby’s first year pictures, and it hits me that next month my baby would have been one.

And I turn on my favorite TV show, and one of the characters is now pregnant and I change the channel to find a safer rerun of another show.

Then, I go out with friends that evening and they are all talking about their day and their kids and their frustrations with their kids, and “how adorable is my new baby/niece/nephew/grandchild” and they show their pictures to the group.  And I smile, but I’m tired, and I’m trying so hard not to make this awkward that I zone out on my phone.  But they are just so excited, and I should be excited too, and why can’t I be excited too.

It’s the culture I am in.  I fully recognize that I am the outlier in these situations.  And there are others like me, but it feels like we are all ticking time bombs that will soon become pregnant and leave the rest of us behind (secretly hoping that I’m the next one to go, but still holding on to guilt that I will leave others behind).

I can’t talk for others going through this because it hits all of us different, but I ask that you be patient with me.  And that you pray for me.  And thank you for letting me grieve when I need to, even if it’s just a random Tuesday and not an anniversary of anything.

The greatest thing that has come from this is learning to live in the moment with God, to allow his peace and grace to wash over me.  And to know that none of this is what gives me worth, only that I am His daughter, a child of the Most High.  And that truth is what bonds us all together, what makes us all a family.  I feel like even though we don’t have any children yet, our family continues to grow.  You all have become a part of my village and I thank you so much for walking this journey with me.

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Grief, Loss, and Thanksgiving (Part 4)

I’ve been sitting, looking at the blinking cursor in front of me for a little while.  I have so many words to say, and yet, none at all.  A year ago tomorrow will be exactly one year since I found out I was no longer pregnant.  November 26th, Thanksgiving Day this year, is the day I went into the hospital and gave birth to my stillborn baby girl.

I’m only working one day this week.  And I have plans with family for Thanksgiving.  So I have things to do but I have no idea how I will be when I am doing them.  I know to give myself a lot of space and grace.  I’m taking it one day at a time.

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the blessings I’ve experienced this month leading up to this week.  I’m thankful for a husband who does his amazing best to be there for me in the sad moments.  I’m thankful for random, loving texts from friends and family.  I’m thankful for a church community and a workplace that surround me with love.  I’m thankful for the SPCA who allow me to use their dogs for my own brand of therapy.  I’m thankful for my own dogs who shower me with kisses and snuggles just when I need it.

I have no idea how the rest of this week will go, but right now that doesn’t matter.  What matters is taking the next step, breathing the next breath, and living the next moment.  I don’t think I’m going to write again this week.  I want to give myself some time to just focus on the present.  I’ll be back next Monday.  So, Happy Thanksgiving.  I am so thankful for all of you.

Something To Remember For The Holidays

I’m writing this week more for myself than for anyone else.  But every now and then you need a reminder of this reality, but I think it’s especially hard to remember going into the holidays at the end of the year.

It’s okay to not be okay.

I think about those people who have lost loved ones this year.  I lost my grandfather this summer, and the first year anniversary of losing my daughter is this month.  So I’m pretty sensitively aware of the sadness that quietly accompanies this time of year.  There is a lot of talk of family, memories, traditions, all good things.  All things I cherish.  But it also makes it very obvious what is missing or what we are hoping for that isn’t here.

But I don’t think those are the only “sufferers” in this season.

There are the ones that have lost their jobs, or are struggling to support their families.  The ones who are estranged from their families for a multitude of reasons.  The ones who aren’t in the place of life they thought the would be at the beginning of the year.  Plans fell through.  Disappointments happened.  And they look up and realize that another year is almost over, celebration is all around them, and there are times in the next couple of months that they just don’t feel like celebrating.

And then there are the people who look around the internet and see the perfect place settings, the pretty packages, the decorations and plans and organization, and they just struggle to “keep up.”  This time of year, while it is merry and bright, while they have all of their family and friends and a great job, still deal with the comparison and depression beasts in their life.  And they feel guilty because their lives could be much worse, and yet they still struggle.

I’m not trying to come down hard on the holidays.  And maybe it’s just my present perspective, but I know I’m not alone.  And I know that this time of year is almost magical at points.  I’m looking forward to hugging my mom and dad at Thanksgiving, to opening presents with my in laws at Christmas, to laughing and playing with friends and family at the Christmas parties, to humming Christmas music in the shower, smiling at the Christmas lights, drinking from red Starbucks cups, and kissing my husband under the mistletoe and at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

But I want to recognize and give permission to the dark moments in the next two months.  It’s okay to be frustrated.  It’s okay to be sad.  It’s okay to miss people and to talk about missing people.  You don’t need to be perfectly happy and coiffed and decorated this holiday season.  Jesus was born into this world to save the suffering, to reach out to the mourning, to heal the heartbroken.  And acknowledging that brokenness with open honesty I think is a great part in celebrating.

So, I give you permission.  Smile, laugh, cry, or scream.  Whatever you need to do this year, it’s completely and utterly okay.

Another Step in the Journey of a Miscarriage

I haven’t really talked lately about what has been going on in my journey to become a parent.  Waiting on God’s timing can be a very frustrating experience, as I’m sure all of you know.  That biological clock is no joke.

Losing my daughter is always in the back of my head.  I wonder in the quiet moments of my day what she would look like, what our life would be like, if she had been born alive, full term.  Some days are worse than others.  When my emotions are running high, it’s difficult to see past my pain.  But most of the time, life runs pretty smoothly.  Pretty awesomely, actually.

See, I have these incredible moments in my life that keep my head above the waves.  Sunrises that stretch across the sky in beautiful pink and yellow hues.  Laughter with my husband that makes my sides and cheeks hurt.  Conversations with friends that remind me I’m not alone.  Quiet moments with God that fill me with an unexplainable peace.

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These moments help me get through the more painful ones.  The negative pregnancy tests.  When people ask if we have children.  When the conversation ends awkwardly after our reply that we don’t.  Moments of quiet grief, wondering if we will ever have a yes to that question.

But those are simply moments.  Overall, I’m doing okay.   I still wake up with hope and joy.  My days are still filled with new adventures and experiences.  My life is still filled with love and purpose.

And one day, I will shout from the rooftops that our family is growing.  One day I will hold my child in my arms.  One day, I will experience all the frustrations and pain and joy and excitement of watching my own child grow up.

And I will use my present experiences to extend compassion to those who are waiting for their one day.  Remind them that no day is worthless.  That hope is worth holding on to.  And that God is walking with them through their journey, just as He has continued walking with me.

Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day coming up, I’ve spent a lot of time in reflection this past couple of weeks.  Recently, I was asked if it bothers me that all the women of the Bible who suffered with infertility ended up having babies.  The short answer is no.  Just the fact that these stories were included in such a male-centric period of our history speaks volumes to how much God cares for women, as well as women who are struggling with such a heart breaking situation.

As I looked closer at these stories, I realized that these women didn’t have it easy.  It wasn’t a happy ending when they finally held the baby in their arms.  Sarah was an older mom who had a pretty epic Mommy War with Hagar that ended in Hagar being sent away permanently.  Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, never being able to see him or Joseph grow up.  Hannah gave thanks to God when she had Samuel, but also only had an annual visitation time to spend with him throughout his childhood.  Elizabeth had John the Baptist, but she had people telling her before he was even born what she should name him (I can only assume they shared more unwarranted advice with her in those years that followed).

We are these women.  We are the women engaged in Mommy Wars, stemming from our own insecurity (although let’s face it, these wars start long before we are called mommies).  We are the women who never completely get what we hope for.  We are the women who never feel like we get to spend enough time with our children.  We are the women who undergo a constant barrage of unnecessary advice from others.

I think it’s easy to look at other women’s lives and think that they got everything they wished for, that they have it figured out, that they are getting more blessings (whether we think they are deserved or not).  The truth is we are all struggling.  Whether we were able to have children when we planned it, or it was unplanned, or we are still waiting for it to happen, or we choose not to have them at all, we all face moments of frustration, moments of our hearts being ripped from our chest, moments when we are so exhausted that we are delirious.

I don’t want to take away from the celebration of Mother’s day, because I believe that mothers should be honored for everything they do.  But I would like to change it to “Women giving Women a Break” day.  What I mean by that is that on this day, we just honor the women around us.  For one day, we refrain from giving each other advice, and instead just remind each other that we are loved.  We just tell each other that we are beautiful, talented, loving individuals, covered by the grace of Jesus, and that it’s all going to be okay.

Let’s lift each other up in encouragement, instead of passing judgment for the choices others have made.  Because God’s light shines through us, let that light shine so bright that the women around us see nothing but the love of God.  Just one day, put aside our differences and just honor the fact that we are going through this life one step, one moment, one breath at a time.  For we are each other’s reminders that we are the daughters of the Most High King, and that alone gives us worth far more valuable than anything else on this earth.