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
Today in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving. For a lot of people, this holiday can be very controversial. Historically, it is a reminder of land and lives that were taken. It can also be a reminder here in the present of people who are missing from around the table, through loss or estrangement. It can be a contentious holiday as people avoid certain topics, walking on eggshells to try to keep the peace.
But it’s also a day set aside to celebrate gratitude. It’s a bittersweet concoction of seeking out the joy and gifts in your life that follow so closely the struggles and pain. It’s searching for the presence of God in the stillness of sorrow.
Personally, Thanksgiving is a time of hard memories. It is surrounded by lost dreams. My first daughter was stillborn four years ago the day before Thanksgiving. My second daughter was actually supposed to be born the day before Thanksgiving two years ago, but was stillborn a few months before her impending arrival.
And this Thanksgiving. I’m holding a miracle of a son in my arms, overwhelmed with gratitude, but also with loss and wonder at what it might have been like if my daughters were alive. How chaotic and loud would my home be? Would my daughters play with my son as I cook dinner? How different would our Christmas card look?
It’s okay to feel both gratitude and heartache this holiday. If you need permission to feel so, then I’m giving it to you right now. It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both/and. And if you are only feeling one or the other, that’s okay too. Gratitude (much like love on Valentine’s day) doesn’t have to be forced into one day a year.
With all of that said, I hope you find some rest, eat good food, and have memorable and positive conversation around the table this holiday. I am so grateful for all of you in this wonderful community!
The Christmas season (which starts with Thanksgiving in my opinion) is probably my favorite time of the year. There are bright colors, happy songs, and presents. And my love language is Gifts, so any holiday season that includes giving and receiving of gifts is top notch.
But this is also a time of year that is hard for a lot of people. Maybe it’s someone who has passed away this year. Maybe it’s a job that was lost or financial struggles. Maybe it was a relationship that was broken.
I’ve been reflecting on how this Thanksgiving has been for me and I wanted to share with you a little window into what I’ve learned about grief this year.
I learned that grief manifests in different ways. In the moment, I didn’t even identify it as grief, but it was. Everything was heightened. There were moments I felt depressed and anxious. I felt guilty when I wanted to be alone when I felt overwhelmed or when I wasn’t very social. I got to see a lot of my family that I don’t get to see very much, but a lot of the time, I didn’t know what to say or how to start a conversation. I’m so thankful for my family who has been praying and is so understanding. Despite myself, we had such great visits with everyone.
My feelings were raw and exposed. There were moments of anger. In fact, Michael and I had a very lively disagreement (ok, a fight) towards the end of the week that we worked through with grace and a whole lot of listening to each other (of course, this was days after the fight happened, but it was a process). We definitely grew as people and closer to each other. It was uncomfortable and hard, but I’m very blessed to have a man who is willing to work through the hard and uncomfortable.
I also learned that grief triggers in different ways. I learned that young infants crying are a serious trigger for me during these heightened days of grief. Somewhere along the line, Michael learned that too. One day this month, we were somewhere and a baby started crying. Michael was across the room, but he stopped what he was doing and looked at me (we were doing different things at the time). I nodded to him, and we left shortly after. Someday, I hope that this won’t be as triggering as I really do love babies, but for now, it is. So we are just aware of our limitations.
Last year, we were just grieving the first anniversary of my first daughter’s stillbirth, and the days leading up to it were harder than the actual day, itself. This year, the anniversaries were harder. Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving was my second daughter’s due date. When I woke up that morning, that was the first thought that entered my head. I felt it. I cried in the shower that morning. That Saturday was the second stillbirth day of my first daughter. I cried that day, too, which surprised me. I wasn’t as ready for that as I thought I would be.
I learned that it’s okay to have conflicting feelings at the same time, which I talked about in the video I posted the Friday after Thanksgiving.
I had moments of happiness as we built memories together just as much as I was sad that my daughters weren’t there physically with me in those memories.
The biggest lesson I took away from this experience is that I’m not alone. I have amazing people willing to walk through the hard stuff with me and extend grace and space when I need it. Even when I fear the wind and the waves, God is still right there with me. I can be in my grief and still say I am blessed.
This week is bittersweet for me, but I have a lot to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for my husband who has stood by me through everything. He is my best friend, the protector of my heart, my love.
I’m thankful for my family who has supported me and believed in me, even when I’m feeling insecure. They have been my cheerleaders since I was little, and I’m so thankful for that support and love.
I’m thankful for my husband’s family who loved me and welcomed me from day one. Your excitement for life is addictive, and I’ve learned so much from you.
I’m thankful for my community. It comes in different shapes and sizes. From people who have known me my whole life to those who have only known me a few months. From the people IRL to those I’ve met only online. I have been so grateful for the comments, hugs (real and virtual), and prayers. You all are so awesome.
I’m thankful for God, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that guides me every day. God gave me all of the things I have listed. I know that there are so many who live in darkness, fear, and hate, who need to know the love of God. I pray that His light shines in my life, even in my darkest moments. I’m so grateful that he continues to walk with me through this journey.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for listening. Thank you for praying. May you be surrounded by the people who love you today. May you find joy and peace in your circumstances. And may you know that no matter what is happening today, you don’t have to go through it alone.
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, I found out I was no longer pregnant. I went into the hospital and gave birth to my stillborn baby girl.
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. So, Happy Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for all of you.
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.