Anniversaries

Anniversaries

One year ago today, my second daughter was stillborn.

There isn’t really much I want to say today, but I wanted to share with you three songs that popped up consecutively on YouTube on Monday that I really needed to hear.

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how you can lay this down
‘Cause you’re not alone

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain, I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

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Memories

memories.jpgToday, Facebook will remind me of when I went to the hospital to confirm that our daughter had passed.  Facebook will remind me of how I numbly pulled out my laptop and typed words on a screen.  Facebook will remind me of how I got back onto the familiar road of grief one year ago.

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I know that you can remove memory reminders on Facebook.  You can remove whole chunks of time if you want to.  But I don’t want to.  I want to remember the sweet nurse that kept hope for us as each medical device came back negative for a heartbeat.  I want to remember how the moment the ultrasound confirmed our worst fears, my OB turned around and created a new game plan.  If her sleeves weren’t already rolled up, I know she would have in that moment.  I want to remember my talk with Jesus, how I re-engaged my stubborn and desperate love in the middle of chaotic grief.

I thought I would be pregnant by now, though.  I hoped I would be, that maybe a new pregnancy would lessen the blow of grief that this week will bring.  But I do have my husband, God, friends, family.  And I’m so thankful that God has created these hedges of protection during one of the dark moments in my history.

God is good.  All the time.  Even in the darkened sad moments.  Especially then.

Friday Ramble: Connection

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Several weeks ago, in another post, I can’t remember which one, I removed two paragraphs because I realized it didn’t fit with the rest of what I was writing.  I held onto those two paragraphs until I had another day to dig deeper into it.  And when I opened up the Word document to jog my memory on this topic, this is what I read:

It’s really, really easy to barrier yourself in this life.  All of our houses have garages that close, doors that lock, fences that border.  Our phones come with a do not disturb function on it and caller id, but before that, we were using voicemail to screen our calls (or was that just me?).  We have been moving towards isolation with furious speed for decades.  We blame the tools of this world – smart phones, social media, the internet – for all of it, but we, mankind, created those tools.

This is not a declaration against social media or cell phones or even the internet.  God is in every connection.  We can’t encrypt against his omnipresence.  We can’t go incognito from his omniscience.  And I believe he works as much in the virtual world as he does in the physical one.  You can’t block God.

This month has been particularly hard for me.  The end of this month will bring the one year anniversary of losing our second daughter.  And just like with our first, the weeks leading up to it have been hard.  Like I said earlier this week, I feel drained by any social interaction, so I’ve chosen to take some time to myself.

Then, I read these two paragraphs and realize how appropriate they are as a reminder. Even when I’m feeling the need to distance myself to work through grief, it is such good news that God remains connected.  And he has made himself known to me – through nature, my dogs, even conversations online with friends and strangers.  It’s so amazing to have people check in at random, but perfectly timed, moments.

So, thank you, friends.  Thank you to those of you who have commented on my blog recently.  You have made my heart smile.  Thank you to those who have sent private messages or small reminders to let us know that you are praying for us this month.  It has meant so much more than you will ever know.  In the midst of pain and grief, I can look to my Heavenly Father who provides for me, and I know that I am blessed.

TTC and Auntie Flo

That most frustrating part of the month, soon after the negative pregnancy tests, when you have to go out and buy pads and tampons, pain meds, and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.

Personally, this month has been extra difficult since the anniversary of our second daughter’s passing is at the end of it.  I’ve had to double up on the self-care and taking one day at a time, and to be honest, I haven’t been as social as I usually am.  And when I am, I leave social settings completely drained.  My sweet husband has been very kind and patient.  Since this has been on my brain this past week, I thought I would share some of the things I do to take care of myself.

  1. Make the bed.  I like to keep the house clean, but when the depression hits, it’s hard for me to do all of the cleaning tasks each day.  So, I severely simplify the list.  Make the bed.  Do a load of laundry.  Empty the dishwasher.  I know that this too shall pass, and I will be back up and around cleaning the house again.  But for now, just make the bed, do something simple so that you feel like you have accomplished, and let the rest of it go.
  2. Take a bath.  Do something that is pampering.  Even if that just means a hot shower instead.  Take a moment in the day to slow down.  I, personally, prefer bubbles, but it could also be wearing a face mask or sipping on my favorite tea.  Or, if I’m feeling really crazy, do all three.
  3. Escape for a certain amount of time.  This could be watching a favorite movie (something you have seen before that won’t bring up bad memories).  It could be reading a favorite book.  Sitting outside in the sun.  Snuggling with a pet.  Meditating.  But do it for a set amount of time.  It’s really easy for me to lose myself binging on a tv show, and while that’s not completely bad, it’s not completely healthy.   That’s why I choose favorite movies over TV or YouTube, two places where I can easily lose myself.
  4. Yoga.  This is my favorite type of movement because it connects body, mind, and soul together.  But a simple walk around the neighborhood listening to a podcast or music could work as well.  Or dance in your living room.  But I find it very tempting to just spend the whole day on the couch or in bed.  One of my favorite yoga sequences is done by Yoga with Adriene for PMS specifically.

  1. Spend some time with God.  You know, when I think about when someone says they spend time with God, I think of this:

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Quiet beach time, or sitting in the silence in my library, as the light filters in perfectly, as I commune with God.  But sometimes it’s more like this:

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And that’s okay.  I mean, have you read the Psalms?  God is present in the silence, but he’s also present in the scream.  And if I learned anything, it’s that one of most healing experiences on this journey has been a good, ugly cry out to God.

It is frustrating to have to go back to square one every month, but remembering to give myself a little space and grace definitely helps the process.  What are some ways that you practice self-care when going through a difficult time?

Friday Rambles: Respecting the Journey

I began this week talking about something that is quite controversial in the pregnancy loss community, and I guess I’m going to end the week with something that is also quite controversial.

RespectingTheJourney

After I lost my first daughter back in 2014, I was invited into a private group for women of pregnancy loss.  In the first few weeks after she died, I was in a state of shock, and there was this decision of whether or not to give her a name on the death certificate.  For some reason, I didn’t want to do it.  I couldn’t settle on a name, and I didn’t want to (I would end up giving her a name a few months later as I processed my grief).

About a week after I got home from the hospital, I posted this to the forum:

“It has taken me a couple of days to really get my thoughts together of what to write on this post. Last week, November 26th, I delivered my stillborn daughter. Technically, it was at the 24 week mark, but I know she had passed probably about a week and a half earlier, when I stopped feeling her move. We hadn’t really decided on a name yet, and weren’t sure if that was something we wanted to do. Are there people who don’t name their stillborn children?”

I was met with a variety of answers, although most of the consensus was “If you loved your baby, you would have named her.” And I spiraled.  I mean, I slammed my laptop shut and walked away, thinking of how awful of a mother I must be that I couldn’t give my baby a name right then and there.  But then, a beautiful woman responded to all of these other comments this way:

“I really prayed over naming my babies but never felt a peace as to what name to give them, I really hope that doesn’t mean I don’t love them as much as my children here on earth with names. A name is a very special thing and if someone isn’t feeling at peace with naming their child of loss then that is between them and God, I doubt anyone who chooses not to does it without a lot of prayer.”

She gave me the grace and space I needed to heal.  She listened to the pain and courage in my words without judgment, and I learned that day how I needed to treat other women in this community.  Even within the trenches of pregnancy loss and infertility, there is unsolicited opinion and advice everywhere.  I know that these words are coming from a place of hope, but more often than not, they land in a place of hurt.

“Have you tried this treatment/diet/medication?”

“You should go to my OB because they are better.”

“Just have faith that God will give you a child.”

“You should do these things every year to honor your child, if you want to grieve the right way.”

“You should do x, y, and z, if you don’t want to regret it later.”

I know all of these are meant to help.  Just like the unsolicited comments that we get outside of the community.  It’s hard not to want to help, but just because you’ve been through something, it doesn’t give you the right to decide how someone else will go through it.

If this journey has taught me anything, it is to not judge the other person’s pain, suffering, or path.  I have realized that no person has ever shared their entire journey with me.  But I don’t have to know their entire journey to know that they deserve love and respect.  Some parts are too painful to relive.  Some are too shameful.  But I don’t need to understand the entire person to give them the ability to grieve the way they need to grieve, to hope in the way they need to hope.

Every woman has every right to celebrate their pregnancies in the way that they see fit.  I don’t know how long or how rough the road was to get there.  But on the other hand, every woman has the right to heal from their loss or their struggle the way that they need to heal.  I don’t know what obstacles lay in the path of every woman, but I don’t need to in order to know that they are beautiful, valuable, worthy creations of God.  And every road does not end with a healthy pregnancy or a child to raise, but I do know that the faith of these women inspires me each day to live boldly and speak boldly and write boldly.

My friends in the trenches are beautiful, strong, kind, loving, caring women who are grieving while living one day at a time.  They are incredible human beings, and I am so, so blessed that I can call them sisters in this community.

What To Do When She is Pregnant, and You Are Not

I hesitate to write this post because, full disclosure, I have people in my life who are pregnant right now, and I didn’t want them to feel like I was singling them out or directing this post towards them in any way.  But, coincidentally, I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends who are in the trenches of pregnancy loss and infertility who are met with this dilemma (without even knowing my own situation), and the conversations that I’ve had with them have been so helpful, eye-opening, and uplifting that I feel like I want to share.

PreggoFriends

Because it’s not normal to hear that a new, precious life is coming into this world and respond to it with grief.  And we, as the women of pregnancy loss, get that.  We want to be happy.  We want to feel nothing but joy and excitement for what is coming.  But sometimes that is difficult because it means that time is moving on, and it’s a reminder that our precious babies are not here with us.  And we wonder if we will ever get to experience this same joy.

So, here are some things that I’ve learned from conversations with others as well as through my own journey.

  1. It’s okay to not be okay.  I feel like there is this desire to just get over it and “act normal” for those people we love and care about.  But being honest with yourself and with your friends and family is paramount to your health and the health of your relationships
  2. It’s okay to have boundaries.  You do not have to go to that baby shower.  You do not have to inundate yourself with social media pictures and updates of belly shots. You already know at least some of your limitations, and communicating that to people who love you will help in the long run
  3. It’s okay to challenge yourself.  But even if you don’t go to that baby shower, I challenge you to still get them a gift or send them a card.  I would invite you to pray for them, or even ask them for specific prayers about their pregnancy.  Don’t just lock yourself away from everything, because there is a baby coming, and that is something to be excited about.
  4. It’s okay to seek help.  I see a therapist.  I have since about 10 months after my first daughter died.  I found a therapist that specializes in pregnancy and infant loss, having experienced it herself, but that may not always be available in your area.  Try at least one session.  Or at the very, very least find a good, supportive forum.  There are private Facebook groups and groups on several sites where women go for support.  They have been helpful to me on advice as well.

Dear pregnant friends, please be patient with us.  We are not going to go about this perfectly.  We may mess up and say the wrong thing or have a response to something that you weren’t expecting.  Know that we love you and we love this sweet new little one coming into the world.  We are just terrified of our own grief at times, at the unexpectedness of it all.  I’ve had reactions to milestones in other people’s pregnancies that I had no idea would affect me so much.

I am pretty lucky to have very aware friends and family who have supported me over the last four years of our pregnancy loss journey.  But I know that this isn’t true for a lot of women in my life, and I wanted to reach out and let them know that they are not alone.

 

This Father’s Day

I’m taking a little break from Ephesians, which I will pick back up next week.

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Michael came home one day this week, I forget which one, and talked to me about staying home this Sunday, like we did on Mother’s Day.  He was saying it more for me than for him because I’ve just been extra sensitive lately, what with Mother’s Day just last month and my birthday this week, and he thought it might not be good for me to be exposed to the public on this particular day.

And I wasn’t sure I totally agreed with him until I went shopping for a Father’s Day card for him.  He got me the most amazing heartfelt card for Mother’s Day, and I wanted to do the same for him.  But it was hard.  Picking up card after card that talked about how good that dad was with the kids, knowing that Michael hasn’t had that chance yet.  I finally found a card that centered more around family than fatherhood, as well as a card from the dogs (thank you for whoever decided to start making those).

I was at dinner with Michael last night for my birthday (since my birthday falls in the week and not the weekend), and I took the opportunity to thank him.  He has been so supportive and open to understanding what I am going through.  I know that the loss of our daughters affected him differently than it affected me, but he has sat with me every time I cried.  He walks with me through the uncomfortable moments.  And it means the most to me when he just gets it, not because he understands personally, but that he strives to learn by listening.

And that just frustrates me more that his daughters aren’t here to celebrate him tomorrow.  He is an amazing father and will be an amazing father to any other kids that enter into our lives.

Father’s Day has always been special to me.  I was born on a Father’s Day.  I have an incredible dad.  I have a great father-in-law (who is loving and kind even though he has dementia).  I have had several mentors in my life who have been father-like to me.  I’m thankful for all of them.  And of course, I’m thankful for my Heavenly Father who is with me daily.

I look forward to the day when my husband can be celebrated by his children as well. But until then, we will continue leaning on each other and leaning on our Heavenly Father who walks with us.