Monday, December 31, 2012

Your Hands

This was the very first song I heard after I heard the words "Your numbers went down, which does mean you had a miscarriage," after I made several phone calls to various people like my work, the Red Cross, my husband, some family, I climbed in the car and heard these words...and they couldn't have been more perfect. When the words "I have asked a thousand ways, that you would take my pain away" hit my ears I felt the weight of every prayer I felt had been left unanswered that week, the pain of my pleas for life that seemingly went nowhere, the heartache that I never imagined would enter my life, but as I listened on, hope filled that car and my heart. These lyrics went on to promise unwavering stability amidst my collapsing world, they promised a safe haven in a life that I felt had been irreparably violated, they offered a promise that no matter how bad things felt, no matter how awful they seemed that they would be set right. Life has taken me many places since I first heard these lyrics, but what has been proven true is that while God's hands may be powerful enough to shape this world, they are also gentle enough to hold me in my pain, that a God powerful enough to heal the sick and hurting, is heartbroken by my tears, that while the road may seem weary and winding, God will make my path straight and guide my every step.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hiding from an Omniscient God

When we lose a child and the shock wears off, anger is often the next emotion, it has long been recognized as one of the steps of grief, and is completely natural. Our anger can be channeled at many individuals, but in most cases it is geared at God; suddenly, in that moment of loss, we don't understand how such a loving God could forsake us, could allow us to be hurt so irrevocably, could sit idly by while our heart is shattered. We sit and we seethe, we think of every name in the book, our mind races with angry thoughts, but we don't dare utter any of these words out loud, we don't dare let God know that we are angry with Him. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that those private, bitter thoughts are truly private, that somehow we have actually hidden our feelings from an omniscient God, we think that the God of the universe is actually being blocked from the ire we feel. We have to ask ourselves, "what do I think will happen if God knows I am mad at Him?" Do we truly believe that it is a condition beyond God's unconditional love? Do we think that we will suddenly fall from His grace? When we hold on to this anger, somehow we believe that we will be able to just move forward and leave it behind, but what happens, is the same thing that always happens when we secretly hold on to anger, it turns to bitterness, which eventually breeds contempt. When we introduce this element to our relationship with God, there is no room to do anything, but grow apart and I can assure you that this grieves God. So what is the solution? What is the resolve? How do we deal with this anger? How do we move forward in life? The answer is quite simple, tell God! Tell God that you are mad at Him! Stop pretending, stop seething in silence, stop blocking God out, and express how you feel; write it down, shut yourself in a room and scream your feelings, get down on your knees and whisper them, it doesn't matter what you do, just get the feelings out there, every last bitter and angry thought. Now, I know what you are thinking "That's blasphemous!" or "I can't say those mean things to God!" or even "I can't yell at God!" but the truth of the matter is that God already knows every angry and bitter thought you have had, He already knows that you are mad at Him, so why are you pretending to keep it to yourself? Why are you acting like God doesn't already know? Do you really think you have Him fooled? God knows how many hairs are on your head, he has counted your every day, He knows every fiber of your being, and He certainly knows when you are angry with Him. The more anger we allow into our relationship with God, the further the chasm between us becomes, and the more brokenhearted our Saviour feels. I want you to think about something; when you express and release the bitterness you are feeling there is a resolve that allows reconciliation, however, there is no hope of this resolve if we continue to harbor angry feelings, it becomes impossible for us to live in harmony with God and His will, and we have done nothing, but further our grief and God's. Next time you are angry, ask yourself "Am I really hiding anything from an Omniscient God?"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unchanging


When things are going well, it is easy to profess that God is always God and that He is faithful and unchanging, but do we believe that when tragedy strikes? Do we believe that when our world comes crashing in? Do we believe that when the healing we beg for never comes? I can tell you personally that the day I got the phone call telling me that I had lost my first baby, I didn't believe that God was unchanging, I didn't believe that He was good, I didn't believe that He was faithful; My view of God suddenly changed into this big, cold man who didn't care what happened to me or my child, I became quite indifferent to Him. Fortunately for me, God was NOT who I thought He was, fortunately He still offered me enough grace and mercy to cover my doubts, to give me time to come back to Him, to let me rediscover exactly who He was. When tragedy strikes our life, I think it is a knee jerk reaction to blame God, to rethink who He is, to mistrust Him and His plans, but does this actually change who He is? Does this make Him a different person? No, we only perceive Him as being different, because suddenly our world has been turned upside down and we can't imagine that God could let that happen to us, that a good God would allow bad things to happen to His followers. God has made many promises to us, one of those promises is that He is unchanging (“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." Malachi 3:6) and we know that He is unchanging,  because in those moments of doubt, when we question who He is, when we are convinced that He no longer covers us with His love or protects us, He is giving us more grace than we ever thought we needed, He is providing great mercy to us so that we may find our way back to Him, to that place where we do believe that He is constant and unchanging. Always hold on to the truth that in those moments when we are convinced that God has changed, He is ready to show us just how unwavering He is. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stand beside me and be my friend

People often ask me what they can do to support a friend or family member who has just experienced a miscarriage, they see the grief and depression and are at a loss, they want to help ease the hurt, but just aren't sure how. A miscarriage is a unique loss with many facets; it not only involves the loss of a child and of all the dreams and hopes for that child, but also the loss of a pregnancy (for me these were two very different areas of grief), so it really doesn't come as a surprise that many are puzzled as to what to do for their hurting loved one. I would like to share a list of things that you can do to come alongside your grieving friend or family member, and make her road to healing a little easier to travel.

-Be there! This seems simple, but you might start to feel awkward around your loved one, not sure what to say or how to act, and begin to pull away from the relationship, this is the most painful thing you can do at this stage in her life.

-Acknowledge her loss. You might be afraid that you will say something stupid, but saying nothing at all is even worse. You might also be afraid that you will make her feel sad by talking about her pregnancy, loss, or baby, but I can assure you she will feel better knowing you are thinking about her.

-Let her share. You might find that your loved one is experiencing a myriad of emotions and has a lot on her mind that she just needs to talk about, let her! What she shares might seem strange, or even crazy, but don't make her feel that way, I can assure that no matter how off the wall her feelings might seem they are probably pretty normal.

-Be understanding. Keep in mind that baby showers can be painful, so be understanding if she chooses not to attend a baby shower or leaves early, the same goes for holding new babies, she just might not be able to bring herself to do it, and that is okay, give her grace. If questions or eyebrows are raised, just be kind in sharing that she is healing from a loss and needs time and understanding. 

-Be practical. Your inclination may be to tell her "let me know if you need anything," but truthfully, at this point she may not know what she needs, so take her dinner, fill her freezer with easy meals, fold some laundry, wash her dishes or fill her dishwasher, sweep her floors, if she has other kids offer to babysit for a few hours, help her with the things that she may not have the drive or energy to do right now. 

-Give her a grief vacation. No, you cannot help her completely forget her grief, but you might just be able to give her a little time away from it. Spend the day with her; watch movies and pig out on junk food, treat her to a spa day with a massage, mani, pedi, and a new hairdo, pack a picnic lunch and get into nature for a hike or bike, take her out for dinner and a musical, play, or movie, or head to a nearby big city for a day of sight seeing.

-Give her a memorial gift. It can be difficult to think of a gift to give someone who has had a miscarriage, your friend may not have chosen to name her baby, and may not have even known her baby's gender, so you might be at a loss, but there are still many things you can do to memorialize her child. A few things that were done for me that meant a lot were the ring my husband gave me with the name we chose for our baby (Sparrow Liran), a Christmas ornament from my sister in law with our baby's name, a friend who planted tulips in her mom's garden in memory of our babe, a cross stitch my mom designed that said "and to think when her little eyes opened the first thing she saw was the face of Jesus," an angel figurine holding a baby that a friend gave me. Your friend might have something special she associates with her pregnancy and baby like stars, butterflies, flowers, ladybugs if you see a gift along these lines buy it, if you see something that really brings her to mind give it to her; it doesn't even have to be bought you might be an artist, or writer, or create something that will be meaningful to her.

-Remember big days. Mother's day, the day she lost her baby, and the day her baby was due will be hard days, holidays may also bring pain, so make sure you are remembering her on these days, sending a card (http://lostforwordscardline.com/) or flowers, a special gift (http://www.myforeverchild.com/), or even bringing over cupcakes will brighten a dark day.

-Remember when everyone else forgets. After a few weeks, people will begin to forget your loved one's loss, they will stop asking how she is doing, and assume that life is getting back to normal, but it's not, she still needs extra love and support. Keep the texts, e-mails, cards, and chats coming, she will need them!

This list is probably not all inclusive, you might find other ways to be there for your friend that I didn't mention (I would love for you to leave a comment about it!), there may even be things specific to your friend and the relationship that you share that will lift her spirits, do them! If your first thought is "oh, I bet she would love this," do not second guess yourself, just do it, the fact that you thought of her will mean the world to her as she is grieving.


*In my post I refer to "she," I am in no way ignoring the fact that the father will grieve and need support, many of these things might be meaningful to a man, as well, but there is no doubt that men and women grieve differently and so this post is more geared towards a grieving mom*


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Existence

One of the most melancholy feelings is loving and missing a person, who by all rights, never actually existed. I have been pregnant twice, I have carried two children, I have given birth to two babies, but to all of the world one of those children has never even existed. I know many of you are thinking, "of course your baby existed," but I often think of the birth certificate, social security card, insurance forms that we had to fill out to prove that MJ existed, and it hits me in an odd way that there is none of that for Sparrow, for my first child. Her birth did not happen with big procession, there were no inked foot prints, no blood tests, no social security numbers to apply for, no records of her being outside of my medical charts which read G2P1. While I named her, love her, miss her, and am completely changed by her, her existence will never be acknowledged in a tangible way. I suspect that many of you have dwelt on these thoughts, and have probably felt the same sadness that I have . Rather than sadness, though, these thoughts should be a reminder that this world is not our home, our residence here on earth is not permanent, and that putting stake on any earthly existence is futile. There may not have been any pomp on this earth, Sparrow may have entered this world behind a closed door, amidst grief, but the day my child was born into heaven their was great rejoicing, there were hosts to welcome her, and I am sure there was more celebration over her spirit entering heaven than MJ coming into this world. While my child may not exist on this earth, she exists in eternity, the part of her that matters exists, the part of her which will spend eternity in the presence of our Lord, her soul. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Abraham & Sarah, the original story of infertility

I grew up hearing the story of Abraham and Sarah, of their desire for children that seemed totally out of reach, eventually of the son they bore, and then of God asking for that son back as a sacrifice. It never really occurred to me, until I heard this song that Sara and Abraham's story was the original story of infertility, and then this story took on a whole new meaning. I came to realize that the desire Sarah had for children was one that was unquenchable, so much so that she sent Abraham to have a child with her servant; even then I can only imagine the pain Sarah had to feel as Hagar's belly began to swell. The Bible tells us of an anger that grew between Sarah and Hagar, and that truthfully doesn't come as a surprise to me, Sarah spent decades desiring children, and though she suggested her husband bear a child with another woman, I am not sure she imagined the pain it would bring her, to know that another woman was making Abraham a father and not her, to know that she wasn't the one to grow their family must have been an agonizing feeling. After we lost Sparrow, I felt quite betrayed by my body, that as a woman I was made to carry a child, and my body couldn't even accomplish that very task; did Sarah feel this way? I can imagine that she had the same feelings that I did, wondering why everyone around her could be carrying babies and having children, and she couldn't. Through all of this pain, I can only imagine the joy that came the day that Sarah and Abraham were blessed with their son Isaac; I remember finding out I was pregnant again after our loss, elation doesn't even come close to the feeling I had that day, then the day my son came into this world, and after a long wait took his first breath, it was a joy like I had never known. I can truly say that I only knew such bliss because I had known loss and desire, and I know Sarah's joy was also that much deeper because she knew what it felt to truly desire a child, because she had settled into a place in life where her children did not and would not exist. I remember one night in the car, listening to the radio, feeling completely broken, and laying it all at God's feet, telling Him that it was okay if I never got pregnant again, never had another child, and I meant this; I imagine that Sarah may have made the same vow, had this same peace and so to know such a blessing as a  child you thought would never be, is joy beyond any other. Then we go on to learn that God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on an altar, oh what faith! To listen to God's promises that you will father nations, that your descendants will be as numerous as the sand and the stars, and then to be asked to sacrifice that, to be the very one to take your long coveted sons life, but God was faithful. Despite the moments of doubt they had, God rewarded Abraham and Sarah, He blessed them, He did what He has long promised to do, He gave them the desires of their heart.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The New Normal

After the loss of a child, whether from miscarriage, or stillbirth, or even a living child, one of the first questions is often "will I ever feel normal again?" and while that might seem like a yes or no question, it is much more complicated than that. Feeling normal again, entails going backwards, it means getting back to where you used to be, and the harsh reality is that this is impossible. You cannot go back to where you used to be, because you aren't who you used to be; loss, grief, and mourning changes you, you become a new person, with a new life. That new life contains many new things, many things that weren't a part of the old normal; it contains hurt, grief, sorrow, loss, loss of innocence, and the single most thing that will change you the most is the child who you are no longer able to carry. Each one of these things changes the core of who you are, it changes how you view the world, it changes how you relate to people, it changes how you love those close to you, it changes your level of compassion, it changes the way you think and feel, you are a new person; even if you could go back to your old normal, it wouldn't feel right, you would feel out of balance and out of place. Rather than going back to normal, you will move forward into normal, a new normal, where you learn to function in spite of the grief, where you push forward through the painful days and relish the days you can smile, where you have greater compassion for the hurting souls around you, where many old problems seem trivial and many new ones feel insurmountable, where you love a child who is a part of you, but not near you. While you can never go back to the old normal, there will come a day when you are able to get out of bed without trying, when you find yourself laughing, when the sadness doesn't cripple you, and yes there will come a day when you realize you just don't hurt as badly as you once did.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Grief is exhausting

Grief is exhausting. You spend your days asking question after question, trying to make sense of your loss, trying to understand why this has happened to you, and if that isn't tiring enough there is the business of trying to hold your life together. Chances are, you have someone in your life who is relying on you, someone you have to care for, someone who needs you to maintain some sense of normalcy, which is a daunting task in itself. Not only are you trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for those around you, but you are also trying desperately yourself to feel normal again, to escape the sadness, desperation, anger, depression, hopelessness, the void left by loss. The spectrum of emotions brought that is the grief experience can make your head spin, it's downright tiring not knowing how or what you will be feeling from day to day, even minute to minute. And the loneliness grief can bring can make you feel like throwing in the towel yourself. I'm sure on more than one occasion you have thought or said "I'm just tired," and have probably wondered to yourself if you could find any sort of rest, reprieve, a solace from your grief, and you can! Matthew 11:28-29  states "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Do you know that there is someone out there who wants to carry the burden of your grief ? Who wants to carry you? Who wants to give you rest? Do you know that you don't have to be alone in your pain and suffering? Do you know that Christ can bring an end to the exhaustion? Not only can He carry the immense burden that is weighing you down, but He can carry you, and He wants to be the one to hold you, He is waiting to take your heavy burden, and to give you His, that is light and easy, you need only ask Him to. Grief is exhausting, don't you want to rest?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Unanswered Questions

When you lose a child to miscarriage (even stillbirth) it can often leave a lot of questions in your life, many of which will never have answers; for me the biggest questions will always be "what happened?"  "How did my baby die?" "Was it my fault? Did I do something wrong?" And as my son grows, I have to wonder what my angel would have looked like, sounded like, smelled like, acted like, I always have this desire to know the person she would have been; I have always thought that as time passed and our family grew, that I would wonder less and less about life with my first baby, but time has me wondering more and more. Every milestone my son hits has me asking what my Sparrow would have looked like doing the same thing; would she have loved mushrooms and zucchini like he does? Would she have used one foot and one knee to crawl like he did? Would she have gotten mad when I tried to hold her hand while she was walking like he does? Would she have loved to give kisses and hugs like he does? Would she have jammed out with daddy while listening to loud music like he does? Would she have loved to cuddle and nurse with mommy like he does? Who would this little person have been? Would you call me crazy if I said that I often picture my son in a dress and headband with a few strawberry blonde curls, just because I am curious? And then I find myself asking what life would have been like with her in it; every time a little girl plays with my little guy, or gives him a hug, or tries to help him do something, I can't help, but picture this as my daughter and son, imagining that I have both of my babies, that it is my little family, and then reality snaps me back to a world where I can only wonder what my sons life would be like with a big sister in it. I suppose all of this sounds a bit hopeless, but I don't mean it to be so, my intention is to normalize the dreams, to normalize the questions, to let you know that you aren't alone in wondering. We may never get the answers we are looking for, but many times in life I have found that those unanswered questions are often much less painful than knowing, and that sometimes God doesn't let us know the answers to protect our hearts.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

His Eye is on the Sparrow


As most of you know, this song was the inspiration for naming our baby, this is a new(er) version by Audrey Assad, and I just HAD to share it with you all, because it is my favorite! The week I went through my miscarriage, "His eye is on the Sparrow" was continually on my heart, my husband was away training with the Army, and this song was about the only comfort I felt during that time. When I heard this version, I was instantly in love, you know that moment when you hear a song that you are convinced was written for you? Well this song is that for me! In the final verse when she changes the lyrics to say "I sing because He loves me, I singe because I'm free," I knew this song was my gift! This was the first time I have ever heard those lyrics inserted, and it was perfect! We named our baby Sparrow, because this bird is a symbol of love and freedom, though we never met our first baby, she will be forever loved, and as I have said before, who is more free than a child who has only known heaven as her home? Free from pain, free from sorrow, free from suffering, a life spent in worship is as free as it gets! I hope this song touches you as it has touched me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Tough Question...

There is a question that I am frequently asked, a question that seems so innocent, so harmless, so benign that the questioner would never know the turmoil, and even pain, it causes. Whenever I am out with my son, and people take an interest in him I know it's coming, and I silently mull over it, knowing I will never give the answer that I want to. "Do you have any other children?" is a question that almost always comes from a stranger, and is always meant to make polite conversation, however, if I give the answer that I really wanted to, it would be an end to the conversation, and a very awkward end at that. The answer I would love to give is "Yes, I have another baby, who I lost," but somehow that's not ever the answer I give. My angel, Sparrow, is a big part of who I am, she has shaped me, and is part of my story, and so I don't ever have a problem talking about my miscarriage, so why is this question so hard for me to answer when it comes from a stranger? Because I know the response I will get, pity, and that is not what I am looking for. My desire to tell others that I have two children, not just the living boy they see, comes from a deep desire to acknowledge the existence of the baby I never met. I carried my first baby (briefly), I had dreams and hopes for her, I was excited to be her mom, I experienced pain when she came into this world, I looked upon her (again, briefly), she changed who I am, she has shaped my heart, and for all of these reasons I want so badly to tell others that I have two children. As I type this it seems so simple, but it never is. Like I said there is often the pity that comes with this answer, then I worry that it will make the other person feel uncomfortable, of course my husband always tells me that I shouldn't worry about how others feel about my lost baby, what matters is how I feel, but again it just doesn't feel that easy. I think the biggest fear I have, and I suspect I am not alone in this, is that people will think I am nuts to acknowledge a baby who never lived outside of the womb, who I truly never met, who lost their life before it truly ever began. I guess ultimately it comes down to me getting past my fears, me being comfortable enough to say, "no, he isn't my first child," me not worrying how awkward or uncomfortable my answer will make things, me acknowledging the existence of the first child I carried.