Lying in the Dust

from passion city church instagram

from passion city church instagram

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

Psalm 68:19

That was the YouVersion verse of the day on Sunday. When I opened my app in church, I breathed in these words with a deep sigh and closed my eyes. I need to be held today. 

I noticed this verse was already highlighted in my app, and it turns out I highlighted and shared this very same verse on Instagram 52 weeks ago. One year ago. Today.

That was the day I lost my 5th child.

Don’t Give Up

It actually started nearly 6 weeks earlier when I learned I was pregnant. I had been assured that after 3 healthy, uneventful pregnancies before, the loss of my 4th child in March was surely “a fluke,” just one of the 1-in-4 pregnancies that end in miscarriage. We did not plan to conceive again so soon after a loss, but God has always seemed to take the lead in our family planning, so I was overjoyed at this gift. I immediately went to the OB for bloodwork as a precautionary measure. A few days later they called to say my progesterone was low, so I gladly started on prescription supplements.

A week later I went back to the doctor to repeat my bloodwork and ensure the medicine was working. I felt great physically and emotionally, so I didn’t worry one bit about it. One morning I ventured to the grocery story with all 3 of my young’uns – ages 2, 4 and 6 – in tow. We loaded up in a cart and had barely made it in the door when my phone rang. I didn’t even look at who it was before I answered.

“Hello, this is Nurse from Dr. So-and-So’s office. We got the results of your bloodwork, and the numbers went up, but not enough to feel good about it. So, you know, this pregnancy just isn’t viable, so we need you to come in tomorrow for a D&C. I can put you in at 9:00, or…”

I stopped in my tracks, stunned not only by her message but the completely casual tone in her voice, as though we were talking about having a wart removed.

“Uh, no,” I interrupted. “I’m not doing a D&C. You just said my numbers went up.”

The nurse sounded incredulous that a patient would actually stand up for herself and not just blindly do whatever she was told. “Oh… Uh, well, they did go up, but you see it wasn’t enough, so it’s going to miscarry. We need you to go ahead and do the D&C because Dr. So-and-So is going on vacation, so he won’t be around to…”

“NO.” I said firmly. “I said I’m not doing it. I’ll come back in tomorrow at 9 to repeat my lab work. Goodbye.”

I hung up the phone and just stood there in the middle of ALDI’s entrance for a moment. I don’t know if my kids were staring at me or climbing on boxes of food or what. The whole world stood still. All of a sudden I turned around and walked back out of the store. “Come on,” I told the kids. “We’re not shopping today. We have to go.”

I packed them in the car as calmly as I could. I don’t remember breathing at all. We immediately drove to the church where my husband worked. When we got there, our church administrator came to the door. I said I need to see Jeremy right away, and she said of course. “Here, let me take the kids,” she said as she swept them into the church nursery and put on a movie. That simple gesture of helping without my having to ask, without knowing what was wrong – that meant the world to me, and I will never forget it.

I don’t remember how Jeremy made it to the foyer. I just remember collapsing onto a bench and weeping. It was several minutes before I told him what the nurse had said, but it didn’t take him that long to figure it out. We didn’t talk. We sat on the bench and held each other and cried for what seemed like forever. Finally my husband said, “So, what do you want to do?”

I spoke without trembling for the first time since I hung up the phone. “I don’t want to give up.”

Medical Un-necessity

The next few weeks were a roller coaster. More like a series of roller coasters, or maybe a whole theme park strung together in the most dramatic and paradoxical sequence imaginable. I went to the OB every other day for labs. I had a couple of ultrasounds. I never once saw my doctor.

On the off days from getting my blood drawn, I would get phone calls from Heartless Nurse who thought I was being obtuse to hope in the life of my child rather than submitting to an unnecessary surgical procedure. She would tell me that my numbers went up again, but still not enough. I would tell her my God is greater. It seemed like I could hear her rolling her eyes through the phone.

Just before Dr. So-and-So left town, I convinced him (over the phone) to order an ultrasound if my hCG level reached a certain number. He agreed, and we spent the weekend praying for that number. Our family and close friends joined us in fasting for that one number. We came up just shy of it, but they still did the ultrasound. The technician wasn’t able to see enough to determine health or gestation, but she did see something that looked like an embryo in my uterus. A few minutes later we met with Dr. So-and-So’s partner, who both he and many friends of mine have said is the best. I was thrilled to finally sit with a doctor who could see that good things were happening.

“You need to do this D&C as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s for your safety. This pregnancy could be ectopic (tubal) and if it ruptures then you will need emergency surgery.”

My heart sunk, not because I was scared of the possibilities, but because the doctor seemed so determined to do this procedure after I had just seen an embryo on that ultrasound screen. “I don’t understand why this is a concern,” I retorted. “We just saw the baby on the ultrasound, so we know it’s not ectopic.”

The doctor picked up my ultrasound chart and slapped it back on the table. “This means nothing to me,” she huffed.

Tears welled up as I told her about my faith in God and in this child. I was praying for a miracle, and I wasn’t giving up.

She literally rolled her eyes at me. “Well, I guess I can’t force you to do it, but you need to know it is my strong, professional, medical opinion that this procedure is necessary, but you have a right to decline my professional advice. Just promise you’ll come to the ER if you have any abdominal pain at all.”

I nodded and left her office.

Faith Hurts

You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.”

Psalm 119:114

I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I felt a great deal of spiritual anticipation at the beginning of 2014 regarding big things that were in store for our family. Around that time I also felt God leading me to fast for a miracle. This isn’t necessarily a strange thing, as fasting is a spiritual discipline taught by Jesus himself and which every believer should practice. It was weird to me, though, because I’ve never considered myself very “good” at fasting. I have done it, and that’s fine, but I never seemed to get much out of it. I wasn’t terribly concerned about that until the Lord specifically told me to fast, so I figured I should learn more about it. I borrowed some really helpful books from my pastor and studied the scriptures. The unusual part about my call to fast is that while God told me there would be a miracle, he didn’t bother to say what the miracle would be.

I was still trying to learn and figure all this out when I got that first call from Heartless Nurse. I thought I needed to figure everything out to do it “right,” but when I got that news, nothing else mattered. I began a modified Daniel fast (basically, I didn’t eat any bread, sugar, or meat for 10 days) right away. I knew what my miracle was. God wanted to save my baby.

Over the weeks that I journeyed through all the doctor visits and bad reports, I was also on a spiritual journey wherein God increased my faith beyond what I had ever imagined. I spent more time in the Word than ever before. Every second I could possibly break away – early in the morning, late at night, nap time, while the kids watched a movie, any time I could get a moment of quiet – I was reading the Bible and searching for hope in the scriptures. God consistently led me to scriptures and stories of faith and miracles. I was connected with family and friends and complete strangers who shared their own stories of miraculous pregnancies and affirmed my faith. I visited my PCP for a sinus infection, and the Nurse Practitioner cried and prayed with me when she heard my story.

In the face of all the doubt and discouragement from my doctor, I was filled with faith and hope from every other source in my life. It was the most exciting time in my entire life, truly expecting greatness from the God who is able…

…But then He didn’t

On Tuesday, June 17, 2014, I started bleeding. No pain or cramps or other symptoms of a miscarriage, so I reminded myself who is the Giver of Life, and I continued praying and believing. That weekend my husband and I took a short trip to a bed & breakfast in Gatlinburg for our anniversary. We went to Cades Cove on Saturday, and in one of the little churches on the Cove I found an old hymnal open to this page:

I Believe Hymn

Despite the obvious circumstances, I was full of faith when we returned home Saturday night.

Then came Sunday morning, June 22. It was my brother’s birthday. There’s something about birthdays… My husband left early for church, as usual, so I was rushing around trying to get everyone ready for church. I was scheduled to serve in the nursery, so I had to be early. I need to remember to call my brother. The kids all want something different for breakfast. I’ve just got to fix my hair…

I was walking across my bedroom when I felt it. Something came out, but not completely. My heart stopped for a moment and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. When I miscarried in March, I asked God to allow me to see my baby so I would know for sure this was it, and he granted that request. That tiny baby looked exactly like a 6-week-old fetus (technically zygote), and that moment with my teeny tiny little one brought me so much comfort.

This time was not like that. I reached down and pulled out what I had felt. I was horrified. It was a jumbled mass of tissue and blood vessels that honestly terrified me. My husband was gone, my kids were in the other room, I had no idea what to do. I was so shocked by what I saw, I wanted to take it to my doctor’s appointment the next day to have it tested in Pathology. It was the only thing that made sense to me in that moment. What is it EMTs do when someone loses a limb? Don’t they freeze it? That seems extreme… Maybe it just needs to be cold?? I placed it on a tissue while I got dressed, then I got a plastic Ziploc bag and put it in the refrigerator.

I called my best friend and told her I had an emergency and needed her to cover for me in the nursery. She didn’t ask questions but immediately agreed. More of those little things that others did for me to show me grace in my time of need. I called my mom. I was flustered. I know I didn’t make any sense. I didn’t know why I was calling, I just didn’t want to be alone in that moment.

My parents came over and took my kids to church. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be alone, so I got ready and went on to church. I was late, so I sat in the balcony. My parents sat with me.

Our worship team sang the gospel hymn “My Life Is In Your Hands” :

You don’t have to worry / And don’t you be afraid

Joy comes in the morning / Troubles they don’t last always

For there’s a friend in Jesus / Who will wipe your tears away

And if your heart is broken / Just lift your hands and say

Oh, I know that I can make it / I know that I can stand

No matter what may come my way / My life is in your hands”

Honestly, I was furious. I sat there in the balcony silently crying tears of anger and betrayal.

As confused as I was by what I had seen, as much as I felt in shock, the one thing I knew was that my pregnancy was over. I had lost my baby, or whatever was left of him. All that prayer. All that faith. All that believing. And here I am looking like a fool. I was so angry with God for the miracle he didn’t do.

Healing… slowly

The next day I went to the doctor and brought along my “specimen.” They did an ultrasound to confirm there was no remaining tissue in my uterus. Bloodwork confirmed that the numbers were no longer rising incrementally but had drastically fallen to almost zero. I still never once saw my own doctor.

That afternoon I sat on my patio during my usual time in the Word and just stared at my Bible. I was so broken, I didn’t even know where to start. I turned to the only scripture I could think of – the only prayer my wounded heart could utter:

I lie in the dust.

Revive me by your word.”

Psalm 119:25

I lie in the dust. I felt so crushed, so helpless, so frustrated, and yes, still angry. I poured out my heart to God. I cried and screamed and told him how humiliated I felt that he let me down. Honestly, I didn’t want to do this anymore. I wanted to give up. I wasn’t shy about it. God was right here with me, so he knew how I felt; there’s no sense trying to hide it. I was so mad. Over the next few weeks, I wept bitter tears nearly every day as I cried out to God. But I kept crying to him. Because even in my brokenness, I knew he was with me.

I will bless the LORD who guides me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I know the LORD is always with me.

I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is filled with joy,

and my mouth shouts his praises!

My body rests in safety.

For you will not leave my soul among the dead

or allow your godly one to rot in the grave.

You will show me the way of life,

granting my the joy of your presence

and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

Psalm 16:7-11

No matter how angry I was, how broken I felt, no matter how much I wanted to walk away, I couldn’t because I know the truth. The truth is that God is good, and his plan is so much bigger and better than anything I could imagine for myself. Even when I didn’t want him there, God never left me. And he will never leave you.

There is joy in the presence of the Lord. You don’t always have to feel happy or like everything is going right. Because sometimes, it’s just not. Sometimes, you are sad and things are a mess. Sometimes you are standing there in the middle of the wreckage of your life, and you don’t even know where to start picking up the pieces. And he is there, and there is joy in knowing that he is with you.

I’m still on my journey of healing. I’m expecting a healthy baby boy in 6 1/2 weeks, and while his existence does not erase the hurt of my losses, he is my constant reminder to joy in the presence of the Lord. A few months ago, on my birthday, I shared with you as I mourned the loss of my 4th child. That day, in the midst of our grief, my husband and I chose a name for our son that means “Jehovah’s gift.” This gift in my womb is kicking and rolling now as I type, and with every flutter and punch, I hear the Lord whispering to me, “I am here.”

My friend, he is here. And he is there, with you. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know the point of the journey I have been on, but I have learned to experience joy even in the midst of pain and to trust the goodness and love of a Savior I don’t always understand. I am not alone. You are not alone. You are never alone. Each day he carries us in his arms.

I love you. I need you.

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,

and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,

out of the mud and mire.

He set my feet on solid ground

and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.

They will put their trust in the LORD.”

Psalm 40:1-3


To the Wannabe Mom on the Elevator…

Wannabe Mom

Last week I went to my obstetrician for a routine pre-natal visit. (Summary of findings: baby is healthy, mommy is gaining entirely too much weight. You’re welcome for the update.) As usual, I was running late and did not have time for insignificant, time-sapping trivialities like “make-up” and “non-yoga pants.” As I rushed my already-waddling self through the late-Spring Tennessee heat and into the building, I had already begun to sweat. Thankfully a kind soul held the elevator for me even as the doors were closing, because I was already late and definitely was not feeling a 5-flight hike up the stairs.

As I caught my panting breath on the elevator, I couldn’t help noticing the woman standing next to me. She was tall, thin, and very attractive. I looked down at my swollen belly and suddenly could feel the extra padding on my hips and thighs. Her hair was about the same length as mine, but hers was perfectly styled in those loose curls I can never seem to master. I thought about my barely-brushed ponytail that I pretend is there because of my hurry, but really I wear it like that every day. Her polished, professional attire suggested she would be heading back to an office after this, and, based on her shoes, I imagine it is a pretty well-paying office. I tugged at my yoga pants that will never fit quite right while I’m pregnant and pulled my husband’s t-shirt down over my stomach. My feet were already swelling in my now-tight sandals. I wonder when I’ll be able to wear real clothes again? I thought. I started mentally counting the weeks until delivery, plus 6 weeks post-surgery until I’m cleared for physical activity, plus however long I will be nursing before I can start cutting calories, plus… how long did it take me to lose those first 20 lbs? Plus 40 more lbs… It was starting to feel like forever before I would be myself again…

My pity-party-train-of-thought was abruptly interrupted as the third passenger exited the elevator. Now it was just me and Beauty Queen for one more floor, and this enviously beautiful woman turned to me and smiled. “You look gorgeous,” she said sweetly.

I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Thanks,” I replied, “I was just thinking how I feel like a whale.”

She smiled again. “No, you look beautiful. I’m not just saying that. Really, you just have that glow.”

I thanked her again as the doors opened to the 5th floor. Quietly we both walked down the hallway and, sure enough, through the same door to the OB-GYN. I took a seat by my husband, who, of course, was on time, while she went to the corner alone. She could have been there for routine care or any kind of visit, but after our conversation in the elevator and the heartfelt way she looked into my eyes when she spoke, suddenly I recognized her. Eleven months ago, that was me.

Last May I learned I was pregnant again, just 6 weeks after miscarrying my 4th child. A few days later I learned that my bloodwork indicated another miscarriage was impending, so I went to the doctor every other day for blood and urine samples until the loss was confirmed.

Every other day, I walked into that office and took my seat in a waiting room full of pregnant women. Every other day, I overheard whispered conversations with husbands about where they should put the crib and what color to paint the nursery. Every other day, I watched women drink that awful orange juice for the glucose tolerance test and complain about how long this would take. Every other day, I observed exasperated moms wrestle with bored toddlers while simultaneously soothing their fussy newborns. Every other day, I sat with expectant teen girls as they flipped through parenting magazines, not really reading the words, anxiety written across their young faces.

Every other day, I sat surrounded by babies while I waited for my own child to die.

There’s really not a way to explain the pain of that juxtaposition, feeling the weight of my broken womb sitting among the healthy ones. After a while the phlebotomist who drew my blood every other day stopped trying to make lighthearted conversation and would simply insert the needle into my familiar left vein while I looked the other way, eyes filled with tears. When she was done, we nodded to each other, and I walked wordlessly from the office to my car, where I could let out my emotions.

Being around pregnant women remained difficult for months following my 2nd miscarriage, which finally happened naturally at not-quite-9 weeks gestation. Like this mom said, “A single miscarriage felt like a fluke; a second consecutive miscarriage felt like the deepest blow and left me weary and wounded, both physically and emotionally.” When I did see expectant mothers, it was all I could do not to approach them with love and encouragement and just a tinge of jealousy, reassuring them that they are beautiful and so, so very blessed with that little life inside. (My husband informed me this was weird, so I held my tongue… usually.)

So to the beautiful woman on the elevator, I see you. You may be here at the doctor for another fertility consultation, because after months or years of trying, you just aren’t getting pregnant. You could be here for bloodwork – again – unsure if this time will be good news or bad. You could be consulting the doctor about whether a DNC is necessary. You might be here for that dreaded follow-up appointment – the one where you have to sit in the same place where your dreams were just crushed and see the words “non-maternity” on your chart, knowing hope is officially lost.

My friend, I have been there. I see you, and I feel your pain. My wounds are yet fresh, and your kind remarks and longing glances are not lost on this still-grieving mother’s heart.

Friend, I promise to joy in this pregnancy as much as possible. I promise to delight in each kick and surprise trip to the bathroom, knowing my active baby is a healthy one. I promise to breathe deeply and allow my body to do its thing (with a little help from the anti-clotting medications I take every day), accepting my current status as life-giving vessel, whatever toll that takes on the bathroom scale. I promise to remember that the gift in my womb is greater than the price my body will pay for it. And I will remember that this precious child has 3 others at home, anxious to hold him in their arms as well as mine, and that’s 4 times the heartburn, aching joints, sleepless nights, and endless love you may have experienced.

I will do this for you, because I have been there. I will not take this pregnancy for granted, because I know firsthand it is not. I will not compare myself to others any more than you wish to compare your toned, flat abdomen to my swollen and flabby and full one. Because I know you would give anything to trade places. My friend, I am sorry. I’m sorry for my pity-party in the elevator, and I am sorry for your wounded spirit. I won’t offer you blithe condolences that don’t really help, but I will assure you that you’re not alone.

You are not alone.

It Takes a Village | Healing in Community

It Takes a Village

photo courtesy of Renee Van Druff, used with permission

You have probably heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” There is profound truth in that statement, and I am extremely thankful both for the village that raised me and the one helping to raise my children. In addition, I’m a firm believer in the statement I often hear from my friends at The Restoration House: “It takes a village to raise a mom.”

To Raise a Mom

When I became a mother, I had very few friends in the same boat. I was 22, had been married just 2 years, and had just started grad school. The few mom-friends that I had meant everything to me. The mall-walking, park dates (even though our kids were too small to play), or just talking about diapers and formula made me feel like a real mom when most days I felt like a kid just babysitting for a reeeeaaalllyyy long time.

I volunteered in the church nursery with experienced moms who shared their wisdom and were candid about their struggles, giving me confidence to parent as best I could. Other moms in my life sought me out and befriended me when I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. They chose to be my friend based on who I am and not just the offspring I happened to produce.

My sister-in-law became a mother just 7 months before I did, only she knew a heck of a lot more than I did. She shared (and shares) the journey with me, and her partnership in this adventure means more to me being a fellow Unthank.

My parents and in-laws watch my kids to give my husband and me the chance to be husband and wife and not just mommy and daddy. The teens and young adults at my church often babysat for us in exchange for lunch or cookies instead of cash.

As my children have grown, their preschool teachers, nursery volunteers, children’s pastors, and various other adults have genuinely loved them and spoiled them beyond reason. And as every parent knows, the way to love me is to love my child well.

I have a diverse, wise, experienced, beautiful, wonderful village raising me as a mom. And I know I wouldn’t be here without them.

Healing in Community

Being a mom isn’t always pretty. There are days when I lose it, and I fail my kids. There are days when I feel like I can’t go on. I’ve learned those are normal, and they will soon pass.

Then there are some hurts that don’t soon pass.

Sometimes you will have seasons of hurt, and you might, like me, feel lost and drowning. You might wonder if this will ever end. You might feel like you will never escape this pit.

You will need your village to come to your rescue.

When I had my first miscarriage last March, I went to my moms group the next day and put a little note in the prayer request box. All it said was, “I had a miscarriage yesterday.” An hour after I left that meeting, I got a text from my small group leader: “What do you like from Chipotle? I’m bringing you dinner.” She didn’t press me to talk or tell me everything would be okay. While she shared my experience of a miscarriage, she didn’t make it about her. She allowed me to grieve and loved me in that moment.

I was at ALDI with all 3 of my kids last June when I got the call that my bloodwork indicated a 2nd miscarriage. I walked out of the store, drove to my husband’s workplace, and the office administrator took my kids to another room and played with them. She didn’t know the situation, but she saw the hurt in my eyes and knew what needed to be done. She dropped everything and gave me almost an hour of time to cry with my husband.

My parents allowed us to bury and create a small memorial for our children in their yard. On occasion I will randomly show up at my mom’s house to visit that site, and she will take the kids so I can be alone.

My mom friends have listened to me cry about everything and nothing; they have forgiven me when I am moody and depressed and not a good friend to them; they have prayed for me when I didn’t ask for it.

My childhood youth pastor – who has always been “my pastor” – takes my calls and lets me visit at the drop of a hat when I am emotional and need a pastor. (Side note: even pastors need pastoral care. Pray for your pastors, and encourage them to have relationships and mentors outside the church. They just need it.) He and his wife have loved me at my absolute most annoying middle school phase, and they lead and encourage me now as a mom, a minister, and human being who just needs love.

My husband… there are no words.

When you face those seasons that don’t seem to end, the hurt that swallows you whole, you will need your village to help you find your way out. There IS a way out, my friend. But we all have to find it for ourselves.

The Messy Job of Clean Up

A few weeks ago I shared how my current pregnancy after a year of losses feels more like wading through storm debris to rebuild that beautiful picture. I may have a “rainbow baby,” but it doesn’t instantly heal the hurt I still feel.

My friend Renee shared the photos of her own home that was destroyed by a tornado 5 years ago and allowed me to use them for my featured image. Her family has a beautiful story of being protected during that storm and of rebuilding a beautiful life afterwards. But as I looked through her pictures, it is clear that an important part of that recovery story is her village.

It took weeks to go through all the debris from Renee’s house, collecting what could be salvaged and clearing out the rest. There were trees blown down that needed to be cut up and removed; the storm scattered their belongings around the neighborhood; there was waist-high construction debris covering all their earthly possessions. Renee’s photots capture all of that – and in most of them, you will see her friends, neighbors, and community members working to get it all done. In order to sort through their mess, Renee’s family needed their village.

In order to sort through your mess, you need your village.

I’m still going through the debris of my 2014 tornado. I have not yet cleared the ground to start reconstruction. There are places where I am still waist-deep in the mess. But I am making progress thanks to my village. Thank you for allowing me to be transparent here, and thank you for loving me through the mess.

I love you. I need you.

How Long, Oh Lord? A Different Kind of Rainbow

How Long

photos courtesy of Renee Van Druff, used with permission

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?…

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

Psalm 13:1-2, 5-6

The other day I read this post from Twin Cities Moms Blog about “Rainbow Babies.” If you’re not familiar with the term, a rainbow baby is one that is born to parents following a loss, particularly miscarriage or stillbirth. The idea is that the new life is the beauty – the rainbow – after the storm of a loss.

Certainly every child is precious, and there is something special about the way parents cherish any baby that is born after having lost one.The thing is, when you see a spectacular rainbow after a storm, all you can do is marvel at its beauty, and you hardly remember the darkness or fear that came with the storm. You know the hard part is over, and you have something beautiful in its place.

I’m sure that is the experience of some parents who have a rainbow baby – that having a child makes everything better and easier. However, I am so thankful to Beth, the author of the aforementioned piece, for pointing out that not everyone has that experience.

It’s been just over a year since my first miscarriage and not quite 10 months since my 2nd miscarriage. I’m also 6 months pregnant with my 6th child (the 4th that will make it to delivery). And if we’re being completely honest (and I pretty much always am), I’m not as happy or whole as I thought I would be.

What I Don’t Need To Hear

If you have ever experienced loss or tragedy of any kind, you are all too familiar with platitudes – you know, the generic, often spiritual comments people make when they want to help but really have no idea what to say. I guess these statements have helped some people somewhere at some time or else they wouldn’t have caught on as sayings. However, the truth is that these things are annoying at best, and often they tend to hurt more than they help.

One I have repeatedly heard regarding miscarriage and especially subsequent pregnancy goes something along the lines of this: “Well that loss is really a blessing in disguise, because if you hadn’t lost that baby, you wouldn’t have little so-and-so here.” I mean, I get the logic. I may have even said something like this before I had a miscarriage and knew better. (If I ever said this to you, I’m sorry.) So, looking at the calendar, it is true that if my 4th pregnancy had continued, I wouldn’t have had the 5th pregnancy 2 months later, and if the 5th pregnancy had continued, I wouldn’t have had the 6th… At least not in the same time frame. However, that line of thinking doesn’t help me; it actually makes me feel worse. It will give you a headache and probably raise your blood pressure if you do this for every dumb sympathy phrase you hear, but just for kicks and giggles (not really), can we dissect the theology of this particular platitude, please?

I am all about the sovereignty of God and perfection of his plan. I understand the eternal value of my children and the mission for which he has called them in this life. But saying that one child died to make way for another presumes that the latter child’s life has greater value than the former. I can’t help but feel this suggests God ended a child’s life because the parents somehow made a mistake and conceived at the “wrong” time. Is this problematic for anyone other than me??

Let me tell you something, friend, especially if you have ever lost a baby: God is the giver of life, and that was the right time for your child, though only a short time. Your child’s life mattered and matters.

Eternal Perspective

Years ago I read a post from Johnna regarding the late-term loss of her daughter, Branson. Although her experience was years before mine, I never forgot her words about purpose. When she was pregnant, she felt the Lord had a specific calling for Branson, and the loss of her life could have felt like that calling was lost, God’s plan thwarted. But God. It is so easy to get lost in the temporal things that we understand, or at least have some grasp on. But God is so much bigger than this life, and his plans are not limited to the confines of this earth and this life. Just as Branson’s purpose is being fulfilled in eternity, so the lives of my lost children will also realize their potential in a life I do not yet know… but I will.

Today I am struggling with the why. Why did things happen the way they did? Why would God encourage me so much in the process only for me to be let down in the end? Why is it a year later and I’m still angry and sad? I knew there would be days and moments when I struggled, but this season is quiet and lonely. I thought things would be better by now.

Maybe… Maybe we aren’t supposed to “get over it” and move on; we are supposed to experience the pain in this moment. What is light without darkness, high without low, joy without mourning? Rather than wishing to skip the hard part, God, allow me to sit here and grieve our losses, whatever that looks like. Teach me Your goodness through the struggle and the pain.

A Different Kind of Rainbow

Believe me, friend, I am not writing this from a place of healing. I do not have such wisdom to impart from “the other side” where things are happy and I’m not hurting anymore. I am writing in my brokenness, grieving the loss of my two children every single day. I ache and long to know them and be known by them. I intensely miss them, even though we never truly met. I really don’t know what I’m supposed to be learning in this. God, that would make this process a lot easier if I did! I am hurt and confused and frustrated… But I’m not getting out of this boat. There is a storm raging all around me, but I won’t abandon ship. I’m not praying for God to calm this storm or that he would calm me, his child. I’m just hunkered down in the hull, curled under a blanket in the fetal position, holding on for dear life, trusting that the one steering this vessel will keep me safe. I can’t see the way out, and nothing I do can make the ride easier; this is pure, blind, reckless faith based only on a hope I haven’t seen.

Maybe for me it’s more like a rainbow after a tornado… There is definitely beauty there, and hope for a bright future to come. But while I stand here admiring that gift of light, I’m standing in the middle of wreckage, a mess of lost memories and opportunities that will take time and work to sort through. And while I may never recover what was lost in that storm, there is hope to rebuild.

…In time.

O Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.

Psalm 90:13-16

Happy Birthday to Us

Me on my 7th birthday. Yeah, I'm awesome.

Me on my 7th birthday. Yeah, I’m awesome.

I have been planning this post for 364 days, but I still don’t know how to start…

Today is my 30th birthday. Woohoo! I’m actually pretty excited to be hitting this milestone. I have heard that your 30’s are the best decade, or at least the best so far, because you kind of settle into your lifestyle. After all the changes I have had over the last decade, I am really looking forward to the next one! I feel strong and healthy, so I’m really not concerned about the number. Having been doing this married-with-kids thing for nearly 10 years now, it just seems like about time my age caught up with the rest of my life. It’s not turning 30 that has me emotional today.

One year ago today, on the morning of my 29th birthday, I lost my 4th child.

Here’s my disclaimer that my story is to follow. Trigger warning to those who have experienced miscarriage.

It was early in my pregnancy – just about 6 weeks – and from the beginning I had sensed that something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t want to seem morbid, so I kept my “paranoia” (intuition?) to myself. The day before was a Sunday. My husband and I were visiting a different church as part of the ordination process we were undergoing with our denomination. The day was very normal until right after we checked our kids into the children’s areas. We were walking back to the sanctuary when I felt something sudden and strange, and I rushed to the bathroom. That was when it started. Trying to be positive, I told my husband things were under control, so we could stay at church until I had reason to leave. When I talked to the doctor, he told me not to worry; just rest, drink lots of water, and come in the next morning.

All that day and night, I prayed that if I was going to miscarry, I wanted see the baby and know for sure. Although I know it happens and can’t be helped, I had a fear of passing my child in the toilet and never knowing it.

When I woke up the next morning, I stood up and knew this was it. And thankfully, the Lord answered my prayer. Having spent a few years working in a crisis pregnancy center, I know what a 6-week-old fetus looks like. There it was, just about the size of a grain of rice. Although very, very small, and for a very, very short time, I was able to see and touch my baby. That was my gift.

I went in to see the doctor, and an ultrasound confirmed what I knew was true. My sweet husband took me to lunch at Cracker Barrel, as was our tradition after each OB visit during our previous 3 pregnancies. I went home to rest and insisted my husband go back to work. That night we ordered pizza and watched Frozen while I snuggled with the 3 healthy babies I carried to term.

March 24, 2014 was a chilly, overcast day. I wanted to bury my baby in the sun, so we waited a few days. On a warm, perfect spring day, while my 3 living children were all at school, I called my husband at work and begged him to come home to bury our child. The day was so pretty, and I didn’t want to say goodbye any other way. He left right away, and we took our baby to my parents’ house.

We bought some brightly colored flowers to place in a box with our baby. We wrote notes to her on the outside of the box. I wanted to place her in the “orchard,” a group of 3 or 4 fruit trees on the far end of my parents’ property. However, Jeremy wanted the site to be closer to the house so we could easily see and visit and think of her. So we buried our child under a tree near the house, next to the hot tub and in view of the playset, so our whole family could be part of all the action.

I look at her every time I walk outside.

This day has new meaning for me now. I share my birthday with my baby, who was “born” on the same day 29 years later. Today I am sad, but I don’t want it to always be this way.

Today I am keeping my boys home from preschool to play outside and squeeze out every last snuggle I possibly can.

Today I am getting my car washed at the good place I usually am too cheap to pay for, because it’s free on my birthday. And it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Go figure.

Today I am getting a free full-fat Frappuccino at Starbucks because I can.

Let’s be honest, today I am racking up as much free stuff as possible.

Tonight I am taking my daughter to her soccer game and cheering for her the way my parents did for me.

After the game we will hug and cuddle and read bedtime stories. Then, after the kids are asleep, I will force my husband to spoon me and play with my hair until I fall asleep.

Tomorrow I will send all my kids off to school, and I will visit my baby under the tree at my parents’ house. And I’ll cry.

But today, it’s my birthday. It’s “our” birthday.

Happy birthday to us.

When I am afraid…

God I look to you / I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like you do
God I look to you / You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom / You know just what to do
“God I Look to You,” Jenn Johnson [Bethel Worship]

Last night I bragged on Facebook about how I bravely gave myself a shot of Lovenox in the stomach all by myself. I was proud of myself. Lovenox is an injectable blood thinner to treat 2 clotting disorders during my pregnancy and, essentially, keep my baby alive. Usually this prescription is started as soon as one learns she is pregnant, but my conditions were not discovered until just this week, so I am starting at 16 weeks.

I can’t tell you that doesn’t make me nervous.

After losing 2 pregnancies in the first trimester, I take comfort in the fact that baby has made it this far without such intervention. However, I’m a human and a thinker. What are the risks of starting so late? Is it too late? Is it possible the baby has already died and I just don’t know it yet? Yes, I’m thinking that. Why wasn’t I tested for these clotting disorders earlier in pregnancy? How would I tell my children that their baby in mommy’s tummy died??

I have been thinking these things since Wednesday afternoon when the nurse told me she was calling in my prescription to start ASAP. My husband and I talked about them at length last night. For the most part I have kept my emotions under control. Yesterday my wonderful husband reminded me, “It’s not any medicine giving this baby life; it is only by the Lord.”

I know this is true. But I woke up in the middle of the night/early morning, compelled to pray for our child. I lay still in bed and asked God to cause the baby to move so I could feel something and know everything is okay. It didn’t happen.

But that’s not how I know everything is okay.

Many times during trials, we do wish God would give us clear answers and physical reassurances that the end result is good. But the truth is, we can’t rely on the things of this world, even our own senses and things we “know” to be true. We don’t see the inner workings of our bodies or the miracles God is performing in the “secret places.”  We can know the end result is good because we know that God is good. That fact – regardless of my situation or circumstances or trials or pain or loss – is the one and only unchanging truth. He is good, He is for me, His plan for me is for my good and His glory. This I know.

So today I am not comforted by flutters in my tummy or scientific certainty from a doctor or ultrasound. The truth is, I don’t know the end result. I just don’t. But I know it is good, because the God who holds my life and my baby’s life is good, and nothing will change that.

Today all I have is this, one of the verses all 3 of my kids have memorized:

photo from thelordismylightandmysalvation on tumblr

photo from thelordismylightandmysalvation on tumblr

I will love you, Lord my strength
I will love you, Lord my shield
I will love you, Lord my rock
Forever all my days I will love you

But God

You know, it’s funny how intimidating your own success can be.

While my last post hardly “went viral,” it garnered more hits in one day than any of my other posts, and over the course of a week outperformed any of my previous months of blogging. So, in my tiny little fledgling blogger world, that was pretty successful. It came time to write again, and I was like, how do I follow that?

Which is kind of a weird thing to say of yourself.

I haven’t necessarily been waiting to post until I had something that would blow your minds, but, at least if you know me personally, this might just blow your mind…

Baby #4!

Baby on board!

That’s right, I’m having a baby!

Not particularly noteworthy in the context of world events, but it’s pretty major in my life for a couple of reasons. First, I mean, it’s a baby and all, which is more significant to the mother than pretty much anyone else in that child’s upcoming life. Secondly, my older three kids are super close in age, so this one coming four years later is a bit of “starting over” for our family.

Mostly, though, this is a big deal because this isn’t my 4th baby. It’s my 6th.

New Year’s Day 2014, my husband and I sat up late that night and talked about the great sense of anticipation we had about the coming year. We had been feeling a build-up of spiritual tension in our lives, and we felt we were on the edge of breakthrough. We didn’t have a clear picture of what God had in store for us, but we knew it was big. We were so excited  to learn what surprises the year had in store.

Surprises indeed. After 3 healthy, complication-free pregnancies between 2007 and 2011, I had 2 miscarriages in the first 6 months of 2014. I knew it to be true before I had lost a child, but I could not have understood the searing pain of loss one feels after a miscarriage, regardless of the gestational age. In the last year, I have been so broken, so angry, so ready to give up hope.

But God.

Those are my favorite scriptures, when you know how things ought to go, the way things appear to be going, BUT GOD steps in and changes the plan. He makes a way where there seems to be no way, and out of the ashes of our pain, he brings healing and joy and LIFE.

This is my story, and I invite you to follow me on the journey. Happy 2015, y’all.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart:
he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26