My Mother’s Day

We have done different things in the past on Mother’s Day.  Up until my first miscarriage, Mother’s Day was a day to celebrate all of the mothers in my life – my mom, my mother-in-law, my friends.  I would make little gifts or write cards to them.  I enjoyed it because I really enjoy encouraging other people.

But that all changed with my first miscarriage.

2013 – I went to church that day.  I was still recovering from my miscarriage I had just 6 days earlier.  I didn’t want to be the kind of person that stayed home.  I wanted to embrace the “this isn’t about me, this is about celebrating my friends just like I’ve always done” mentality.  But when I walked in, the first person asked me when I was going to be celebrating this day, myself, and I almost lost it right there.  But I held it together….that is, until the first video during the service.  I managed to get out to the hallway before the ugly crying started.  My husband was making coffee that morning, so I just stayed with him in the kitchen for the rest of the service.  My in-laws had come in that weekend to support us, and I left them in the sanctuary.  Thankfully, they understood and were awesome about it.  I would also like to note that the church put a beautiful poem in the bulletin that day, honoring all mothers.  One of the ministers who saw me leave the sanctuary came to check up on me and told me that he was thinking of me when they put that particular poem in the bulletin that week.  Another minister also came to check on me.  That church rocks.

2014 – Michael and I decided to get out of town this time.  We went to Austin for the weekend.  He shopped at fish stores and I had a morning at the spa.

2015 – This was after my first daughter passed away.  It was this Mother’s Day that I requested a special heart-shaped urn for my daughter.

2016 – I was actually pregnant on this Mother’s Day.  I went to church, dreamt of future Mother’s Days.  It was a pretty amazing day.  I didn’t know that only three months later, she, too, would pass away unexpectedly and inexplicably.  But this day was a happy day that I still cherish.

2017 – This Mother’s Day, I holed up in my house.  I didn’t know how I was going to be on this day.  I spent the morning snuggling with my dogs and watching light-hearted TV shows on Netflix (that had nothing to do with motherhood). 20170514_090933My husband gave me two cards – one from him and one from the dogs (the dogs’ card included a pack of highlighters because just recently, Teddy destroyed my favorite pink one).  I wasn’t on my phone very much, but I think one of the most amazing things that happened this year was the unexpected texts and messages I received.  I didn’t respond to very many because I was overwhelmed by the kind words and thoughts and prayers included in each message.  You are all a part of God’s work on my healing heart, and I’m so thankful for each of you.

Just like how different each of my Mother’s days these past four years have been, other women who have experienced or are experiencing pregnancy loss or infertility may do this day differently than I have.  And that’s okay.  Maybe some need to be in community and decided to go to church.  Maybe some need to get out of town.  Maybe some need to do something special to remember their child(ren).  Maybe some just need to stick their heads in the sand and wait for it to pass.  Maybe some are pregnant this year, but they still remember the children that came before.

None of these are wrong or selfish.  If you find this particular holiday difficult, know that you are loved.  You are valued.  I know it feels isolating, but you are not alone.  If you ever want to talk or vent, I’m here.  But more importantly, God is here.  He sees you.  He hears you.  And he is walking with you every step of this journey.

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An Addendum to Advice for Next Weekend

I’m writing this on Saturday and posting on Sunday.  Today (Saturday) marks the four year anniversary of our first miscarriage.  Over these last four years, I’ve had a lot of conversations with family, friends, and strangers about pregnancy loss, children, infertility, etc.  In fact, three years ago, I wrote a blog post about some of the awkward conversations I had after my first miscarriage.  While I have seen more compassion and understanding in the community than I did that first year, I have a few more things to add to that list.

So here is what not to say to a woman without kids during Mother’s Day (or any time of the year for that matter).

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1.  Do you have kids?  I understand I live in suburbia, and 9 times out of 10, she will probably have kids, but if you ask me, the answer will always be “yes, I have two daughters that have passed away”.  And then there is that awkward pause, or the I’m sorry, or usually, lately, it comes back that they have a sister or friend who went through the same thing.  I don’t hate the question, don’t get me wrong.  But I know that women with infertility or pregnancy loss struggle with it because, frankly, it’s kind of a downer to talk about children who have passed away.  As much as I love my daughters, it’s a sad story (even though I know where they are and that gives me hope).

But even if the person does have kids, I think it can be a bit of a boring question.  And that’s because I was asked the most fabulous question a few years ago.  It has stuck in my brain as a brilliant conversation starter.  And that question is “What drives you?  What is your passion?  What gets you up in the morning?”  For a mom, that could be her kids, but it also gives a mom another option.  I know moms that love their kids, but their passion in life, what drives them, is something different.  And that’s okay.  And it’s okay to be passionate about your kids too!  And for someone like me, who isn’t raising any kids right now, I can share the other things in my life that get me out of bed in the morning.  Particularly this face, because he whines every morning at 7 a.m. to go out.  Every.  Morning.  He is my alarm clock.

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2. Have you thought about IVF?  Clomid?  These are drugs and procedures more for people dealing with infertility.  I don’t actually have infertility, although I may have it in the future.  Infertility can happen after pregnancy, pregnancy loss, or a number of situations.  But there is no indication that has happened to me, yet. The medical research that has positively affected infertility has been amazing.  Even so, none of these are quick fixes or absolutes, and unless you are willing to go deep into that conversation, you might want to be careful bringing up things that may have worked for someone you know but may not have worked for the person standing in front of you.

And a lot of the time, I get the sense that people assume my OB or any of the doctors I have spoken to would not have talked about these things with me already.  Especially since my particular case has been unexplained.  I have amazing doctors who are passionate and knowledgeable in their field.  They are blunt with me and talk me through whatever questions I have.  I have been tested so much, had sit-down meetings with a genetics counselor and with my high-risk OB (perinatologist).

My body didn’t malfunction when I carried or gave birth to my daughters.  Neither of my daughters was in distress on their ultrasound, just days before passing.  Our first daughter was autopsied.  How far down the testing do we need to go?  I’m not saying this because I’m angry.  I’m willing to have the conversation.  But for most parents, this is a painful conversation, and I would caution assumptions and comments in this area, especially with strangers or acquaintances.

3. Have you thought about adoption?  I want to make clear that not everyone who has talked to me about adoption has been inappropriate.  I’m thinking of the conversation I had back in January with a complete stranger who asked if I was cleaned out after my miscarriages (not realizing that my pregnancy loss was stillbirth).  The next thing on her lips was “have you thought about adoption” as if adoption was some quick fix.

First of all, adoption can be a long and very expensive process.  And it comes with its own set of emotional rollarcoasters. You aren’t guaranteed a baby in a certain timeline.  I’ve heard of situations from friends trying to adopt who had a baby and then the birth mother decided to keep it.  It’s heart-breaking.

Second, adoption is not a replacement or a quick fix to my loss.  I still have three children.  One precious child lost way too early and two precious daughters.  And any child we have in our family is not a replacement or a consolation prize, but one that God placed in our lives with purpose.

I know that this is complicated and heartbreaking.  It happens to one out of four women.  And something I would say to women who are going through this Mother’s day without her children with her is this:

You are not a fluke.  Your children were not a fluke.  You are beautiful.  Your children are beautiful.  You have purpose and worth, and so do they.  You are an honored mother, loved by her children.  No matter where you are in the journey – take just that next step, breathe the next breath, live in that next moment.  Love others fiercely and with compassion.  God loves you as his daughter.  And I love you as my sister in the trenches.  Hang in there.  God’s got you.

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.

A Quick Word of Advice This Weekend…

I know that a lot of people who have gone through infertility or miscarriages have written blog posts about Mother’s Day in recent years.  I appreciate their strong words of encouragement and understanding, and I thought I would add to the list a few thoughts of my own.

First of all, I want to celebrate the mothers in my life.  This day is a day to honor all of their hard work and sacrifice.  My mommy friends are all excellent examples of the kind of mother I hope to be if and when I have children of my own.  My own mother has been an amazing example of a wife, and I hope to be even a fraction of who she is as a mother.  She has instilled a strong character in me to stand up for what I believe in and to embrace the beauty found in everyone including myself.

That said, last year, Mother’s Day was something very different for me.  The Monday before Mother’s Day was when my miscarriage began.  It began at 1:00 AM that morning and lasted for a little more than a week, including that Mother’s Day Sunday.  My amazing in-laws came down for support, and I even went to church that morning, though I didn’t make it very far into the first video on the screen before leaving the auditorium in tears (I held it together until I got to the foyer).  My church family was absolutely amazing and supportive, even the bulletin that morning had a poem that honored every woman, including those who have dealt with the death of a child, miscarriage, infertility, or a wide range of other issues that women go through more often than we realize.

In the following months, I had several conversations with friends, family and acquaintances that are prompting me to share this list with you.  This is not in any way nullifying the relationships that I have with anyone who made a comment similar to this to me, or in any way truly affecting the relationship I have with them.  I know that every person I have come into contact about this has had only the best intentions and excitement for me regarding family and children.  I love, love, love you all for this.

However, please realize that even the best, well-meaning comments can be painful.  The below list are things actually said to me over the past year.  While some hurt more than others, they are in no particular order of affect or importance, as everyone is affected differently by this issue.  I just ask that we think before we speak, and avoid saying the below altogether (unless given explicit instructions, prompts or approval by the friend in question – they know what is best for them to hear).

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1. “When are we going to celebrate Mother’s Day with you/When are you guys going to start a family/Are you trying to start a family/Etc?”

This was said to me on Mother’s Day.  I honestly didn’t know what to say, and I smiled, mumbled something incoherent to even me, and walked out of the room.  I know that there are some people who believe that you should start a family right away after marriage, and can’t fathom waiting for any length of time.  Please remember that this decision is one that is not made lightly.  Michael and I made the decision to wait five years for a number of reasons, and we were blessed to have the love and support from both sides of the family on that decision.  Other people have other reasons to wait, while still others are struggling with infertility.  Bluntly, if they haven’t volunteered that information to you, you probably don’t have the kind of relationship with that person to say such things to them.  I know that this comes from a place of excitement and encouragement, but really, it’s best left unsaid.

2. “You look pregnant in your most recent picture/Are you pregnant?/Etc”

That first one was actually told to me privately (which I truly appreciated the private manner it was done).  If you have read any of these types of lists, then you should know by now to never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never say that to any woman.  I know that it’s exciting to be the first to figure out or know some big piece of news.  I hate to be the last to know something.  However, there is never a time that this is appropriate.  Not even if she is in the maternity ward, with her legs in stirrups, screaming to the top of her lungs.  This is a pretty important piece of news, and when the woman wants to share it, she will the way she wants, when she wants, to who she wants.  If she’s not pregnant, it could very well mean that she ends up crumpled on the floor, crying her eyes out.  The only thing that should ever be said to another woman is that she is beautiful, inside and out.  That’s it.

3. “Maybe you and your husband should get tested/Maybe you should lose weight/Maybe it’s because of birth control/GMOs/Cow’s Milk/Etc”

I am a theory kind of girl.  As I said above, I love to figure things out.  And to a certain extent, I had no problem talking about the latest trend theories of why there are so many miscarriages happening in the world.  And there are, by the way.  Just in my experience alone, when I came out about my miscarriage, almost every woman in my life had dealt with one at some point in their life (some with multiple ones).  However, be careful when discussing the possible causes of a miscarriage with the one who went through it.  We are fighting a voice inside of us that tells us that this is all our fault.  Granted, this one probably didn’t bother me as much when I miscarried as these comments have resurfaced in my memory these last few months every time I knew I wasn’t pregnant.  I had a wonderful doctor who took hold me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and repeated over and over that this wasn’t my fault when we didn’t hear the heartbeat.  And I don’t think anyone who said the above theories believed that they were blaming me in any way for what happened, but sometimes those words get twisted in our brains and planted in our hearts, and it’s hard to shake them after a while.  Instead, just be there for her.  Just listen to her cry, buy her a Sonic drink, and let her love on your little ones.  It can be the best remedy for a long day of second guessing myself.

4.  “It’s harder to get pregnant after [insert age here].”

This is similar to #3 in that it can come as unwanted advice or comment, and it can have a similar effect.  We know all about the biological clock.  We also have memorized what age will be considered at risk, and we know the days are going faster than we want them to.  However, ultimately, this is in God’s hands.  There are young women who go through miscarriages and troubles conceiving for a variety of reasons, just like there are several women out there who don’t start having kids until their thirties and they have wonderful families.  Again, Michael and I made a conscious decision to wait, and we don’t regret that decision.  I cannot live in fear that I’m not living up to a societal timetable when it comes to my family.  The only timetable I can truly depend on is God’s, and I’m positive he will make my purpose clear in his timing.

5. “It will be so easy to get pregnant again/You will have no trouble conceiving/Etc”

This comment was actually somewhat of an encouragement to me when I was going through the miscarriage.  However, one of my friends wisely knew that this might cause problems later.  You see, when we started trying again, it hasn’t been as easy as the first time.  I know stress has been a huge factor, but as each month ticks by, it becomes more difficult to fight the fear.  It turned out that it is harder for me to get pregnant than I originally thought.  And because of that, there are times when I feel like I’m letting those people down.  I’m not guaranteed another pregnancy, and I have to face that with a patience and peace that comes from God.  Again, instead of this kind of encouragement, just listen to the relationship and the woman.  Be there for her at the time of miscarriage as well as the highs and lows that will come afterward.

Finally, I don’t want to include this as a number because this is different for even me depending on the relationship, but I have to say something.  Pregnancy announcements.  I’m not really talking about online or Facebook ones.  I’m talking about ones announced face to face, especially if the person has recently gone through a loss.  I know that that is a celebration-worthy announcement, and I want to celebrate with you, but I don’t know how to do so through my pain.  I may hold the tears back or try my best to remain calm, but inside my heart is pounding, and my soul is screaming out (and trust me, the crying happens as soon as I get alone).

Something I learned to do before I was ever pregnant (thanks to the awesome advice of mommy friends who went through infertility issues and miscarriages) was to email a person who has dealt with infertility or miscarriage the announcement to give them a heads up.  That way, they can have the nasty reaction that they don’t want to have in front of you, because you don’t deserve it.  It’s not about you, it’s about their pain.  I know it’s selfish, but it’s also honest, and a quick email would save a bunch of future heartache and extend some awesome understanding as well.  Trust me, I want to be stronger than this, but unfortunately, I’m not there.  God is working on me, and continues to do so.  Acknowledging their pain and making the attempt to understand should only make you grow closer.

I hope this sheds some light on the subject, at least from my perspective.  I know that other women are going through different things and making different choices according to their calling.  So I know that this isn’t an exhaustive list, just the ones that affected me and I know have affected others.  Regardless of your position and perspective on this topic, I love all of the women in my life.  I am blessed to have so many Godly examples in my life.  You have definitely helped me grow and continue to grow in my daily walk, whether you know it or not.  Love you all!

Mothers and Fathers Day

Since I took a hiatus in May, I didn’t really recap Mother’s Day, so I’m just going to throw it in with the Father’s Day update.  This year was bittersweet for our family.  I was having a miscarriage still on Mother’s Day, but we did have amazing support from Michael’s parents who came to visit that weekend.  Michael got me a card from the dogs and some chocolates.  I know there is controversy when it comes to counting your fur-babies as children in general, much more on holidays like these, but I think it was good to take a moment to remember and appreciate the little family we have in the present. Continue reading “Mothers and Fathers Day”