Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year and an update!

So I was going through some old blog entries to see what life was like a year ago and what my reactions were to the new, upcoming year. It is so funny because even in the first paragraph, it still holds true for this year! I wrote "Happy New Year! I am really excited to see what 2012 holds for our family. Josh and I were talking about how every year we think to ourselves, "Well, that was a REALLY hard year. Hopefully this next one will be easier." And every year we look back and say...NOPE! ;)"

Well...that still applies haha! God blessed us with many trials (Ember Rose, an unplanned pregnancy, big changes in our adoption plans), and many blessings (Ember Rose, an unplanned pregnancy, and provision for our adoption though the plans have changed a bit!). I would not say this has been the hardest or even in the top three hardest years I've ever faced, and that is either because it was just easier overall or we are just getting much better at handling what gets thrown at us. ;)

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! We certainly did! Jake and Eisley got spoiled rotten as always, and we had a great time with our new expanded families (two new additions this year with my brother and my sister both getting married!). We once again talked about how next Christmas we'd have a new little one to share the holiday with, and Jake reminded me that we have been telling him that for the past three years so  he will believe it when he sees it. Poor buddy!

Speaking of the little one, things are going very well! The pregnancy is progressing perfectly and I am happy as a clam at this point. I'm in the very comfortable "honeymoon" stage of things, where I'm not having the nausea anymore and I'm not quite big enough to be uncomfortable but I still get to enjoy the perks of being pregnant (people are so nice to pregnant ladies!). ;) Baby is growing slowly but surely, somewhere over two pounds now and about 14 inches long. Mommy is growing too! This picture does not show my face as I have had a nasty cold for a few days and ain't nobody want to see what I look like right now. ;) But this is me and baby at just over 26 weeks.

We're getting there! I am enjoying so very much feeling the baby move and kick. I feel like things are going too fast and I'm trying to soak in every minute! I was telling a friend the other day (who also has had some losses) that I wish no mama ever had to experience pregnancy loss, but that every mama could appreciate a pregnancy the way you do after loss. I have seen friends (and I used to be one of them!) who just absolutely hated being pregnant and couldn't be done with it sooner. Of course I have my moments when I can't wait to see and hold this little guy or girl, but I appreciate so much how precious this time is and how it can be all taken away in the blink of an eye. I want that baby in there and to keep cooking for quite awhile still! Eisley of course completely disagrees with me and wish time would fly by much quicker. She can't wait to get her hands on this baby!

Anyways, this was just a quick little entry to wish you all a very Happy New Year, and to give you a quick update on the little one (who still remains nameless due to my incredibly picky husband and children who poo poo on every name suggestion I've ever given). Thank you for your continued prayers and love! I'll see you in 2013!!!

All five of us...Christmas Eve 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My thoughts on it all...

Sometimes, there are just no words.

Yet, it seems everyone has something to say about the tragedy that occurred yesterday. While most of us weep for the families of those who were killed, while all of us hold our babies a little tighter and rush home a little faster to see them safe and sound, some of us are using what can only be called a massacre of children as a platform to defend our own stances on guns, gun rights, gun control, and separation of church and state. I see pictures posted all over facebook of things that make me shake my head and wonder why we can't just spend five minutes loving on these families instead of turning our noses up and essentially touting a big fat "I told you so" to the world. Whether they believe guns should be outlawed or our kindergarten teachers should carry around semi-automatic rifles during recess...the sentiment is the same. "If things were the way I wanted them to be, this never would have happened."

I'm sorry, but can we just for a few moments put aside our own agendas and grieve with these families? Could we maybe use this as an opportunity to show the world God's love and mercy and hope instead of using it as an opportunity to bombard them with heartless and insensitive remarks and pictures? How about instead of posting that quote about your right to own a gun you maybe post some of God's words of encouragement from Psalms or Corinthians? How about instead of going on a three paragraph rant on how if we had stricter gun laws those children might be alive today you maybe stop for a second and remember that they are not. No amount of facebook ranting will bring them back. But maybe some encouragement would do someone a bit of good.

Yes, everyone has an opinion. Yes, everyone has a right to it. And being that we live in America, I am sure the topic will be debated publicly and voted on and everyone will get a chance to be heard. But for goodness' sake, these babies have not even been buried by their families yet. Is now, right this second, really the time to start such heated and angry debates? People's hearts are so very, very raw right now. Emotions are running higher than ever. Just ask yourself, "Who am I benefiting by saying this? By posting this? Is it those around me, or is it just me? How would I feel if the mommy of one of those small children who were gunned down read what I am posting right now? Would I want her to see this today?"

I could get into a heated debate right here on this blog about which side of the fence I am on, but to be perfectly honest, I just don't know. I have moments where I want to strip every single American of their gun and blow them up in a giant atomic bomb so that I never again have to worry about my baby being shot dead during circle time. I also have moments where I want armed soldiers guarding their school parking lot so that they can shoot evil men like this on sight before they ever have a chance to touch my baby. I have no idea where I stand on the issue, when it comes right down to it. I just want my babies to be safe. I don't know where I stand. I just don't know. This is what I do know...

I have two children that are the exact age of those who were murdered yesterday. My children are also in the first grade. I dropped them off yesterday morning with a quick kiss, a "Have a good day" and "I'll see you tonight." So did those parents.

I went to work, fully trusting that my children were safe in the care of their teacher. So did those parents.

I went home after work and hugged my babies and tucked them in.

Those parents will never, ever do that again.

Jake and Eisley have a Christmas program coming up next week. So did the children who died. As the room mom at their school, the teacher and I have begun planning for their Christmas party next week. What kinds of things were planned for the class party of those children? Had they already made ornaments as a surprise for their parents, as mine have? Had they been practicing their parts in the Christmas play for weeks, singing their songs loudly in the car on the way to school, as my children do?

What have they left behind for their families? Messy rooms and crayons strewn all over the house. Clothes that needed washing and juice boxes that didn't get thrown away the day before. Unwrapped Christmas presents hidden in the closet of their parents' bedroom. Wrapped presents under the tree that will never be opened. Disney princess cereal bowls sitting in the sink from breakfast. An elf on the shelf doing something silly that made them laugh that morning. Action figures and legos stuck in crevices of their mom's minivan. Christmas advent calendars stuck on December 14th that are a piercing reminder that time has stood still in their homes. DVRs filled with Christmas movies and reruns of iCarly and Ninja Turtles. Refrigerators covered in artwork and alphabet magnets.

This is what would be left for me, if it was my children who didn't come home yesterday. It is impossible for those thoughts not to absolutely tear my heart to pieces. Those poor mommies. Those daddies who feel it is their job to protect their heart aches for them.

What about the adult victims? I couldn't help but think about all of my close friends who are teachers in public schools, in their late twenties, just as most of those adults were. I thought about what it would be like to learn that one of them had been killed, that they had been gunned down along with their students in the very place they use their gifts to care for and educate the children they love. At a time in their lives when they would be getting married and thinking of starting families of their own. In a place they worked so hard to get to and took such pride in what they did.

We live in such a broken, broken world. If you are reading this blog at all you know my personal beliefs, you know that I am a Christian and you know the general stance I take on most topics, even if you don't agree with me. I'm sure you could venture to guess which side of the gun debate I'm on (though you'd all be mostly wrong, as again, I just don't know). You can predict that I will end this blog with a verse and give a message about trusting the Lord in the midst of deep tragedy. I posted only a week ago about the heartbreak of burying children and how incredibly hard it is to find purpose in their sudden deaths. I could go on and on about the whole thing and give you my personal opinion on each and every reason I think this happened and how it could be prevented in the future and how these parents could ever possibly find a way to get up in the morning...but that isn't the point, and this isn't the time.

Right now I am talking to Christians...those who share in my beliefs and claim the Lord as their own Savior as I incredibly evil and wicked thing happened yesterday. Lives were shattered, destroyed, changed forever. It is so raw, so new, we are only beginning to process our grief. Those families will be doing so for the rest of their lives. Could we, please, show them the love of our Lord during this time? Could we show it to those around us who are utterly confused and angry over what happened? Could we remember that there are so many people watching us, watching how we react to "our God" allowing such evil to occur? Could we remember that it is not our calling to shout "I told you so!" from the rooftops of America and blame the fact that "God was kicked out of schools long ago" for the evil actions of one man? Could we put aside our opinions on guns and focus on the real issue here, and if you are a Christian you cannot tell me it is guns. It is the brokenness of our world and the hope Christ offers if we trust in Him. Could we use this tragedy as an opportunity to share the Good News of the gospel, to share the hope that comes in Christ, to tell of how these things break the very heart of our God and He weeps right along with us? Could we please put down our own agendas and egos and political stances and remember the individuals who are crying themselves to sleep tonight? Could we save the debates for a day when emotions are not running positively sky high over a heartbreaking tragedy? Could we honor the memory of those sweet children and the adults that loved them by joining together to comfort and help one another?

Could we act as if the parents of those babies can read what we are saying, can hear the conversations we are having?

I'm still processing all of this myself. I am having a hard time, as most mothers of first graders seem to be having right now. There have been other shootings, other school shootings, where I have been incredibly saddened, but not affected as I am by this one. I know it is because my children are the same age as those children were. As mothers, we can't help but put ourselves in the shoes of those mothers, because it so easily could have been our little ones. We can't help but imagine the fear of our own children, had a scary man walked into their class and began shooting their friends one by one. We can't help but lose it in the car, weeping over the fact that those mothers will never get those images out of their heads, that they will have a gaping hole in their hearts til the day they die. And maybe because we can't help it, we simply have no patience for those who seem to be so quick to use this as an opportunity to spout their own opinions instead of an opportunity to love and comfort those around us. I cannot relate to those who are not brought to tears over this, but instead find it appropriate to post political cartoons and pictures of weapons with a message about the love of or hatred of guns all over their facebook page. It annoyed me a week ago. It angers me today. Today is not the day for these talks, these debates, these opinions, these heated arguments. Today is a day for grieving, for comforting, for mourning, for offering hope to the hopeless.

I don't know, if Jesus were to live in today's world, if He would carry a glock on Him at all times or preach the benefits of stricter gun laws. I do know this...He would weep with those families, and He would offer the assurance of hope in His Father, and He would do it humbly.

It would be nice if, as Christians, we did the same.

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

V-Day Baby!!!

No, that does not stand for Valentine's Day, or Vasectomy Day (though that day is coming Josh, don't think it isn't...), it stands for Viability Day!!!

I have officially made it 24 weeks into this pregnancy, and for those of you who are not familiar with the paranoid mind workings of a post-pregnancy loss mama, or the daughter of a NICU nurse, or the sister of a pediatrician...what that means is that the baby has made it to a point that if I were to have to deliver him or her for some reason beyond my control, this little one would have a good shot at making it in the outside world (the baby is now considered "viable" to the medical community).Of course, we are hoping we make it at least another 12 weeks or so, but still, it's a big milestone in a pregnancy I didn't see getting past the 6th week.

Because my doctor is keeping an extra close eye on me and baby, I am now getting monthly growth scan ultrasounds that measure baby's size, weight, and a few other important things like blood flow and fluid levels. For those of you who are interested (crickets....crickets...) this little one is a whopping 1 pound, 5 ounces!

This was by far the most fun at an ultrasound I've had so far this pregnancy. Since I now feel regular (constant) movements from this baby, I knew going in that the baby was at least alive. I can't tell you what a load that takes off of me! Usually going into the ultrasound I am breathing into a paper bag to keep from fainting because I am so nervous that the baby has suddenly and inexplicably died. Call it Post Traumatic Ultrasound Disorder, I suffer from it bigtime. Now that I can feel the baby rolling and tumbling around, my worries go from "The baby might have no heartbeat" to simple, normal worries such as, "The baby's brain developed abnormally, they will now see the baby has a heart deformity, the fluid levels will be too low" and the list goes on. But, those worries pale in comparison to what I went through before in my previous ultrasounds, and those thoughts, while worrisome, can usually be tucked away into the back of my brain while I enjoy watching baby squirm and dance on the screen.

Yesterday the baby was particularly active and kept kicking the probe right off my belly! It also kept opening and closing its mouth like a fish, which was hilarious to watch, and at one point we saw very clearly that the baby was rubbing it's eyes with both hands! So cool. It was such a fun video, and my ultrasound tech was so distracted by the amazing shots she was getting that she failed to print any of them for me to take home. Oh well! I was sent home with one decent quality shot of the legs, so that's what I will show ya'll here.

Aww. What adorable little knees. ;)

It is getting harder and harder to stay in the dark about whether those are girl knees or boy knees, but we're staying strong! I don't trust anyone else to come with me to these ultrasounds though, because I have to shut my eyes like a million times to keep from spoiling the surprise and I have a feeling Auntie Lisa wouldn't be nearly as strong. I purposely covered the upper portion of the above shot just to keep my medically trained family from reading too much into it!!!

We are getting more and more excited as the weeks go on, and it is starting to become a reality that we may actually get to bring a baby home with us after all this is over. I hope so, I can't even tell you how much I hope so.

Well, that's all for my little update! We hope there are lots more happy updates to come, and maybe next time I will have a better picture to show you than this baby's legs. ;)

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Have you ever been to a funeral for a child? I have. They are just tragic. There is an air of heartbreak filling the silence where words fail each person in the room. I have been to more funerals for children than the average person, being that I work closely with hospitalized kids, and sometimes those kids die. I've also been to my own baby's funeral, watched my husband carry her little casket to her grave, sat in that funeral chapel where the smell of lilies and the sound of choking sobs filled the air, things I can still feel when I close my eyes and think about it.

When my grandparents died, only a few months apart, at very old ages after very fulfilling and beautiful lives, we held funeral services for them so that their loved ones could come and remember, say goodbye, and fondly talk together about the many memories they all had. I remember that, of course, people cried. But they did so almost with a smile on their lips. One that said, "What a beautiful day, that they are together now with their Savior, in Heaven, perfect in body and no longer in pain!" And it was! My grandparents had lived long, happy lives and touched thousands of people through their years of ministry and even just the humble and godly way they lived and loved. They were amazing people, and we miss them, but their loss was...well it was our loss only. Not theirs.

I remember the very first funeral I ever went to that was for someone younger than 90 years old. It was for a friend in my youth group who had been killed in a sand dune accident at only 17. I was the same age and had been to a couple of funerals for elderly relatives, so I remember thinking I pretty much knew what to expect.

I. Was. Wrong.

I remember it as being one of the saddest, most horrible services I have ever been to, and I have been to plenty since that day. I think it was probably the shock of how tragic it was that has stuck with me all these years. The memory of seeing his young, smiling face in a large portrait next to his casket and realizing he would never get older than that picture. It was seeing his mother absolutely sobbing and wondering how she would ever get up in the morning after something like this. It was his best friend's incredibly bitter speech where anger over losing his friend so young oozed from his very pores. It was awful.

Why? Why is the death of an elderly person so very different from the death of a young one? Why do we tear up and question the Lord at the very mention of a friend's friend's friend losing a baby to SIDS but only nod sympathetically and say, "Oh, well, they're in a better place now" when we hear of our best friend's grandparent passing away at the age of 87?

I know that a big part of the reason is thinking of the parents. Thinking of how much pain they must be in, what a gaping hole they now have in their lives. If we have children of our own, we can't help but think of how we would feel if one of them was snatched up, and the thought alone makes us literally try to shake the very possibility from our minds.

But I think there's more to it than just the empathy we feel for the parents of that child who has died. We think it is not only our loss, it is the child's. I think there is something about losing a child before they had a chance to live a long, full life that makes us question the Lord and ask Him, "Why?" It makes us think to ourselves, "What a shame. What a great loss. So many possibilities, a lifetime of purpose...wasted."

Purpose. "The reason for which something exists or is done, made, or used." (Thank you

We all have purpose. I believe God creates each one of us with a specific purpose or purposes in mind, from the moment we are teeny weeny tadpoles swimming around in our moms. God does not create human beings  willy nilly like a child creating people out of playdough, only to smash them up and start over five minutes later. Right?

But, if that's true, why would He ever choose to take the life of a baby, a child, a teenager? What was His purpose for them if He only gave them months, or even days on this earth? What possible purpose could that life have had? The very thought of losing Jake or Eisley before they can become teenagers, drive a car, get married, have babies...the thought that I might be forced to go on without them in my life...oh. The pain of that simple thought is enough to stop my heart.

Lily lived, if you want to take a liberal stance on this and count from her creation, a grand total of 136 days. If you want to look at it another way, you could say she lived a total of 0, but being as I am her mother and got to watch her grow and kick and wiggle inside me for those five short months, I am going to go with 136. I have often struggled with questioning God about what possible purpose He had for my baby if He only let her live for 136 days? What could He possibly have accomplished? Why create her at all? Why force me to bond with and love a baby that I would never be allowed to hold alive? Why would He go to the trouble of creating her at all if He wasn't even going to let her live a single moment outside the womb? What purpose could Lily possibly have had? Whatever it was, it doesn't seem like it could be fulfilled in only 136 days.

I came across this webcast by Nancy Guthrie called "Pain that Can't be Prayed Away" (You can listen to it by clicking here). I forget how I came to listen to it, but wow, it is really good. She talks about the devastating diagnosis doctors gave her daughter, Hope, at birth, and how she and her husband spent six short months with her that impacted their lives forever (If you don't know Nancy's story, she later had a son with the same diagnosis, who also lived six short months. Her testimony is powerful). There is a lot of good stuff in there, so I urge you to listen to it if you have the time, but there was one particular point that stuck out to me that I wanted to share with you here.

Nancy talks about how she would sometimes simply cry out to God over the unfairness of it all. They were desperately trying to make the most of each day with Hope, but she was broken-hearted over the fact that her daughter had been given only six short months to live, and as that day drew closer, I'm sure she wondered what purpose God had in it all. How is six months enough? Why go through this at all if that's all we get? She talks about how a friend said something to her that made her see things in an entirely new light. She said,

"God will completely accomplish the purpose He had for her life in the number of days that He gave to her."

Mind. Blown.

Are you telling me, that God knew when He created my Lily that she would only live for 19 weeks, and He created her anyway? What about my other losses? Ones I knew about for mere days, did He create them knowing their lives would be as short as a breathe? What about sweet Ember? Did He create her purposely without a brain, knowing we would be chosen to adopt her, devastated at the news of her diagnosis, and forced to give her up?


Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,

Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
Before one of them came to be.

So the question many days does God need to fulfill a purpose in Him through the life of a person? In our eyes, especially the eyes of a mother, a lifetime. People need an entire lifetime, like my grandparents had, to complete God's purpose in their lives. To allow God to work through them and their struggles and their story and their relationships, He needs a lifetime!!! But the truth is, God does not need an entire lifetime of days. He creates certain people with certain purpose, and for some of them, His purpose can only be fulfilled  if they live a short time, if their death is sudden, if their loss is felt deeply, if they are taken before we truly knew them at all.

I do not think this means that He completed His entire purpose with Lily in the 19 weeks and 3 days that she existed in this world and then her purpose in life was over. I am confident that those 19 weeks and 3 days was exactly the amount of time He planned for her, and the exact amount of time He needed her to live so that He may complete the work He intended to be my life, in Josh's, in our family's, in our friends, in complete strangers that were touched by her story. Not 19 weeks and 2 days, not 19 weeks and 4 days, but exactly 19 weeks and 3 days.

Another thing I heard during this sermon that, to be honest, shook me to my very core when thinking about this current pregnancy, this little one I am at this moment feeling kick and wiggle inside me, was a prayer Nancy said she prayed during the short life of her baby girl.

"Lord, whatever number of days are right for her, let them be enough for me."

Ugh. Oh how I can relate to that. To the feeling that I know in my soul that God does not make mistakes, that nothing happens without His permission, that He knows the number of days He will give to each of my children before He even creates them, yet I struggle so much with being okay with that number if it is far less than what I would choose.

In my mother's heart, of course the "right" number of days I think is enough for this baby are years upon years of days. So many days that this child's life will continue on long after I am gone. But in my my faith, I have to trust that the Lord knows better than I do. That He may see fit to number this child's days with far less than we humans deem acceptable. Who of us would number any child's days at only 136? That's how many days Lily had here. Certainly it was far too few. Certainly God could not accomplish His work and His purpose in only 136 days. Yet...I believe He did. As horrible as it felt, as absolutely cheated as I sometimes still feel, that as a mother I deserved a lifetime of days with her, and 136 was nowhere near enough for me to hold her inside me. And what about the number of days I got to watch her grow and breathe and smile and cry? Because she had 0 days if you look at it like that. But. I know, in my heart of hearts, that it was enough. God had a specific purpose for her creation, for her short time here, for the way she was taken back to Him, and He is still working to accomplish that purpose, in ways I may never know, and in ways I am granted small glimpses of now and then.

God chose me, someone who likes to share her lessons and experiences, who many times writes out her heart, who valued my daughter's life even though it only existed inside of me for 136 days, who was not afraid to hold her and take pictures of her and even less afraid to share them with the world, He chose me to be Lily's mother. Why? I think there was a reason for it, and it wasn't to punish me, and it wasn't because I am particularly strong, and it certainly wasn't random, but it was because being Lily's mother for 136 days was part of my purpose, in the number of days the Lord has given to me. 

Knowing that, knowing that my days are also numbered, I have to ask myself if I am yielding to Him, if I am allowing Him to accomplish His purpose through me in the short time I have here. If Lily can have such an impact on so many in only 136 days, when she did not take a single breath on this earth, what can God accomplish through me? Through those of us who have years upon years of days? A lot. How many of us squander the purpose God intended, the years that could have been spent doing something for Him? Is it possible that sometimes, God can do more with the short life of a sick child than the long life of a healthy adult? I have seen it. I have seen how some of my own loved ones have wasted years upon years of their lives in bitterness and regret, doing absolutely nothing of value on the eternal spectrum, and then I have seen small children who impact thousands in their short lives, doing more for the Lord than many people with years of life behind them.

No one is more aware of how many weeks and days this baby inside of me has been alive. I count them and cherish them in a way I never did when I was pregnant with my twins. I took so much for granted then. It was a given that if God gave me those two babies, he would surely give me a lifetime of days with them. I know now that isn't necessarily true. I know now that God is merely lending me these children, and it is up to Him for how long He will do so.

It is a tragedy when a child dies. In the world's eyes, it is a pointless and cruel reality, a shame, a waste of a life that will never be. But we must stop looking at these things through the world's eyes, and start looking at them through God's. He does not make mistakes. He is capable of creating immense purpose through even the shortest of lives, through even the most tragic of deaths. This does not mean these losses will not continue to break our hearts, bring us to our knees in agony, and make us question God's reasoning behind it all. It simply means we can trust that God did not mess up, He did not turn His back, He did not miscalculate. He has a purpose, He created each person for a purpose. There is a reason He has given a certain number of days to you, a certain number to me, and 136 to Lily Grace.

I do not yet know how many days are written in His book for this little one inside me, but when I am gripped with fears that that number is far less than what I would hope for, that maybe today is the last day, or tomorrow, or next month, all I can do is cry out to Him and say,

"Let that be enough, Lord. Let that be enough for me."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When Do They Matter?

Last week Josh and I had a bit of a scare that caused me to have to take a trip down to OB triage to get checked out. It is quite normal, in my experience, with my pregnancies, to have a lot of harmless contractions. That is how it was the entire last half of my pregnancy with the twins, so I wasn't that surprised when around 20 weeks, sure enough, I started having regular contractions with this little one as well. It isn't anything alarming, just sporadic contractions that aren't comfortable but come and go with no real rhyme or reason.

This day however, I had finished a long, six hour infusion of IVIG, which typically causes dehydration that isn't a big deal, unless of course, you are pregnant and prone to early contractions already. Sure enough, when it was over, I was not feeling well at all. I started having those contractions, except this time they weren't just uncomfortable, they were very very uncomfortable, and they were not sporadic, they were regular and evenly spaced at two minutes apart.

I did what you are supposed to do. I laid down on my left side (someday I'm going to research why you are supposed to do that), downed about 70 ounces of water in five minutes, and tried to relax. Two hours later, however, the contractions were no better, I felt no better, and I was starting to get concerned.

Thus our trip to OB triage. On the instructions of my on call OB nurse as well as my concerned sister/physician, we hauled our tired selves down to the hospital to get checked out. I have made these trips before when I was pregnant with Jake and Eisley. It usually ended in the "Walk of Shame" as I had fondly nicknamed it, leaving the hospital after being checked out and told you are not in labor and there is nothing wrong with you, other than you are an overly concerned first time mother. Except this time I was not a first time mother, and I could only hope that in a few hours I would be walking back to my car, relieved and still feeling the movements of my baby.

I've made a lot of friends since we lost Lily at 19 weeks. I belong to a "club" of sorts of mothers who have had late losses. We somehow find each other and know each other's stories. I lost Lily to a cord accident, but most of the mothers I know who lost babies around 20 weeks did so because they went into pre-term labor that was unable to be stopped. I imagined myself at that moment, 22 weeks pregnant, a mere two weeks away from having a baby that could possibly be saved by medical technology today, but knowing that two weeks makes all the difference. If I was to go into labor, my baby would live a mere seconds, and no one would be able to help it. The thought of that urged me to put my pride aside and go in to be checked, just in case, because the nagging possibility that things were not okay meant I wouldn't sleep that night until someone told me otherwise.

What do you know? As soon as I got situated on that hospital bed, my contractions had slowed significantly. I was of course relieved, but also wondered if the staff would think I was one of "those" patients who come running into the hospital for every little thing. But then I remembered that I have lost three pregnancies, and if anyone deserved to be overly cautious, I certainly did.

I won't go into all the details of our experience at the hospital that night, but I will tell you the part that struck a very sensitive cord in a mother who held a baby in her hand that was a mere 19 weeks into development.

Since my contractions had nearly stopped, we were told by my nurse that we were free to go. After asking her if they could just check me to make sure I hadn't dilated, we were told, "Honestly, it wouldn't matter if you were dilated. The baby isn't viable until 24 weeks, so even if you were in labor, there is nothing we can do."

Two weeks. I was a mere two weeks from being able to help my baby. I pushed further and asked if it wouldn't be possible to stop my labor, if I were in fact in labor, so that I may get to 24 weeks and have the possibility of delivering my baby alive and able to receive medical intervention. I was told, "Medications to stop labor are ineffective until 24 weeks. The baby isn't viable until then."

Now, I know this is not all necessarily true, and very much depends on each individual case. We were also told that if I were in fact in labor, I probably had an infection and "it would be in the best interest of the mother to deliver the baby", even though that meant my baby would die. If I were to have an infection, then yes, as sad as it is, this is true. But I wasn't checked for an infection. I wasn't checked at all. For all they knew, I had started to dilate and was being sent home to deliver that little baby on my bathroom floor.

I was told to disregard my discharge instructions that stated I needed to go back to the hospital if I had more than six contractions in an hour, because "your baby isn't viable until 24 weeks, so it won't matter if you're in labor. There is nothing we could do about it. There's nothing we could do for you or the baby at this stage."

We were told a number of things that night that didn't quite add up and I very much did not agree with, but that isn't the point of my telling you this story. Have you ever heard that saying, "You may not remember what they said, but you will always remember how they made you feel."? For some reason, in my conversations with the nurse about my history of losses and her lack of a sympathetic reaction to them, in the way she acted as if it was no big deal that I was a full three weeks further along than I was when I delivered Lily and to me this was such a big deal, in the way I was essentially told, "Your baby doesn't have a chance at life for two more weeks. Come back when it does," the way I was left feeling was that my baby did not yet matter, at least it wouldn't for 14 more days.

Well who decided that?

I wondered to myself what this particular nurse would have thought of my giving birth to a 19 weeker at that very hospital a little over a year ago. I wondered if she would have thought it was silly of me to grieve deeply for that baby, to name her, to hold her and take pictures of her, when she was a full five weeks from viability. I wondered if she knew I would go to the ends of the earth to save the baby I am now pregnant with, and would do absolutely anything to stop my labor and get the two more precious weeks it so desperately needed to survive. I wondered if she knew I would probably be up all night wondering if I had started dilating, wondering if I would be forced to do it all over again, to deliver a tiny baby with no chance of survival, but this time with the torturous knowledge that I was so incredibly close.

Now, all of that being said, the baby and I are just fine. I went to the doctor the next day and got properly checked out and given a clean bill of health. But the incident at the hospital has had me thinking constantly. One might not even call it an "incident" really, we were never treated rudely or disrespectfully, we were just extra sensitive, and rightly so. We have held in our hands a baby much smaller than the one I'm currently growing. I have labored with a "non-viable fetus," and as someone who has delivered full term, seven pound twins, I can tell you it was just as painful, just as exhausting, and ten thousand times as emotional. Lily may have been weeks away from viability, but she had been loved and cared about for 19 weeks and 3 days by her family. The very hospital who was now telling me there is nothing they could do for me or my baby for two more weeks was the same hospital that helped me give birth to Lily, that made me and Eisley matching charm bracelets with Lily's name on them, that cried with us as we held her and grieved her loss, that helped wrap Lily in a tiny blanket and showed us how to hold her so we wouldn't damage her incredibly fragile little body. I was being told by this nurse that there was nothing they could do for me if I went into labor before 24 weeks, but after my experience with Lily, after all the hospital did to make her birth a cherished experience even though she was not viable, not even alive, when she was born, I knew that wasn't true.

I remember when I was in labor with Lily how I had three different nurses because of shift changes and the fact that the labor dragged out for nearly two days. I remember my last nurse, the one who got to deliver Lily, holding my hand and telling me, "We've all been through this you know. Each of the nurses you've had has been right where you are, doing what you are doing right now."

I remember how very much that meant to me, how it gave me this peace that they knew the pain I was in, that they knew how much I loved this baby, even though she wasn't considered "viable" and was probably the smallest baby they had ever delivered. I remember how it gave me validation that my baby mattered, that this labor and delivery mattered, that it was meaningful and I had every right to be a complete and utter broken mess over the whole thing.

It is amazing how different people's reactions can cause such a stir in me. When people ask me how many kids I have, sometimes I say, "I have three. Twins who are seven and a baby girl who passed away." Sometimes people push for more details and ask how she died, how far along I was. Many times I leave that part out, because I can see the thoughts behind their eyeballs when I say "20 weeks". A few times I have even had people say to me something to the effect of, "Oh, thank goodness you didn't get further. I have a friend who lost a baby at 40 weeks, imagine how painful that would be." Well...I imagine it would be incredibly painful. But those thoughts, those attitudes, much like the one I was getting from my nurse last week, they take away my "right" to let my baby matter. Am I not allowed to truly love, and consequently truly grieve the loss of my baby until I am 24 weeks pregnant? Does this baby not matter until then? Twenty years ago 24 weeks would have been considered "non-viable". In twenty more years will the world finally allow mothers to fully grieve their tiny babies because medical technology will have progressed to be able to save 19 weekers? I wonder.

And what about the mothers who deeply grieve the loss of their very early pregnancies? I have lost two in those early stages, and know countless friends who have as well. I know it is a struggle for many of them to claim their right to grieve those losses in a world where we allow and even encourage those early pregnancies to be terminated if that is what the woman chooses. It is not politically correct to grieve a "baby" when as a society, we do not consider it to be one yet. The world collectively side eyes any woman who refers to her early pregnancy loss as a "child" when in their minds, this woman is essentially grieving heavily for a mass of undeveloped tissue. Most of them figuratively pat the woman on the head like a small child crying over a broken toy and humor her so called grief for a short while, but really, how long must we allow this woman to go on this way over something we refuse to admit was a life, with a soul, that has been lost?

I often think about what it is that changes reactions in people when they hear my so called "daughter" was only 19 weeks along, as opposed to a full-term baby that passed away. I am not proud of it, but I have once or twice fudged how far along I was when I lost Lily if I sense that the person asking will not understand my grief unless I was past the point of viability. I wonder if by giving the right to women to choose whether or not to end their pregnancy before 24 weeks, we have consequently stolen the right of mothers who lose their babies before 24 weeks to fully grieve their death?

I don't mean to start a debate about abortion or even imply that mothers who make the heartbreaking choice to terminate their pregnancies do not also grieve heavily, but I do think that it is impossible for most people to both believe it is acceptable to end the life of a baby before it can survive outside the womb, and also treat babies who can not yet survive outside the womb as, well, babies. can they? How can you say "I am so incredibly sorry for the loss of your precious daughter Lily" while at the same time believing that life is not really life worth protecting until that life is much older? question remains. When do they matter? When is a woman allowed to fully love and therefore fully grieve her child? Is it the moment she is aware that baby exists? Is it after she sees a beating heart on the ultrasound? Is it not until she and the baby have conquered the first trimester? Is it not until the baby has a chance at surviving outside the womb?  At what point in a pregnancy does a mother earn her right to grieve the child within her if it has been lost? And who decides that, exactly?

When I had my first miscarriage, I was fairly early on, still in my first trimester. But far enough along that I had recklessly allowed myself to attach to that baby, or the idea of it anyway. When I was told I had miscarried, I was blindsided and broken. As a Christian, I believe that life begins at conception, so it is mutually exclusive that I then had to grieve the loss of a child, even though I had never seen a heart beat, had never felt the baby move, had no real evidence that it even existed except some blood tests and an ultrasound showing an empty sac where my baby should be. Yet, I grieved. And to the dismay of the world, I still do.

When I was pregnant with Lily, I had so much more "proof" of her existence. I had a dozen ultrasounds documenting her growth from a tiny spec to a fully formed baby with wiggling arms and legs. We knew she was a girl, which somehow made her even more real to us. We got past that dreaded first trimester. We were told everything looked perfect...until it wasn't.

When I lost Lily, I grieved heavily over the daughter I knew existed. It was not just my Christian convictions that led me to grieve her loss, it was holding her perfectly formed body in my hands. It was kissing her tiny, perfect lips. It was marveling over each and every detail of her tiny toes, miniature hands, and fingernails as big as mustard seeds. Yet...Lily had no chance of surviving outside of me. Because I was four days short of 20 weeks, it wasn't even a legal requirement that we bury her. It certainly was out of the ordinary for us to hold funeral services for her. I know for a fact there were some that raised their eyebrows at how "far" we took her loss. But I have never cared about that, because I know that if they held her like I did, if they saw how she was a mirror image of Jake when he was born, only a tenth of his size, they would understand. They would understand that she mattered, even at that stage, even before the world recognized her right to life.

I had another miscarriage a few months after Lily was born. I was so early on, even I hadn't allowed myself to accept that I was pregnant. This did, in fact, make the loss much easier to bear. We didn't name this baby like we did the others. We count it when Jake and Eisley are counting how many seats we would need in our car if all of our babies had lived, as they sometimes do, but it was a blip on our radar after the earthquakes of grief we had experienced. I was not broken over it. I was sad, of course. But I was incredibly jaded and hard-hearted by that time, and that baby, while I know it was there and it was lost, did not get the benefit of my broken heart, because it was practically stone by then. When I hear of friends who have lost babies as early as I did that last time, I do not compare my lack of grieving over that short pregnancy to what they must be feeling. I know now that pain is relative. That if my third miscarriage had been my first, it would have rocked my world and brought me to my knees, because I had nothing to compare it to. It would be a loss greater than any I had experienced. It would matter.

This is the point I am trying to drive home, in my long winded way: These losses matter. They matter to mothers. They should matter to the world, but you know what? We aren't asking that. As the mothers who have lost these babies, we will settle for the world allowing them to matter to us. Give us back our right to grieve them, whether they be four weeks along or forty weeks. The loss of young life is always tragic, especially to the parents. Please remember this as you come across women who have experienced pregnancy loss. Treat them with the reverence that women who have walked through fire deserve. Don't put your ideas of when babies should matter on their already overloaded shoulders. Pay attention to your attitudes about their loss. Be mindful of how you speak about it. Follow their lead. If they refer to their early loss as a baby, as a child, you should too. On the same token, if they can't bear to do so, if treating their loss as the loss of a child is too painful for them to handle, don't push it. We live in a world where women are conditioned to emotionally detach themselves from their babies until they are past the first trimester, past the healthy anatomy scan, past the point of viability, and if we lose them before those accepted milestones, we are not only left empty and grieving, we are left feeling invalidated, guilty for allowing ourselves to attach so early, overly sensitive, indulgent, and emotional.

I am 22 weeks, 4 days pregnant and counting. Like, literally, counting down the days until "viability". When I can wake up and know that if I went into labor, they could possibly save my baby. There would be a good chance at me holding him or her alive. But knowing that if I gave birth today my baby would die does not lessen the love I have for this little one. Her kicks are no less real because she wouldn't be able to do so outside of me. This baby much...and has mattered since the moment I knew about her (or him!). Even as someone who had a very, very hard time emotionally attaching to this pregnancy and this baby, and rightly so, I have never been able to fool myself into thinking that its loss wouldn't matter. As mothers, we do not have a magic switch of emotion and love for our babies that we can turn on once the doctors tell us it is safe to do so. It is there from the beginning. We all handle it differently, we all handle loss differently, but I think the one thing we can all agree upon is that these babies we are carrying, they matter. Even if the world can't agree on when they should matter.

And as a Christian, one thing I can take comfort in, even when it seems my babies do not matter to those around me, is that they mattered to the Lord. They mattered from the very moment of their creation. And I am confident they matter to Him just as much as my sweet Eisley and my precious Jake matter to Him...and that, I know, is a whole heck of a lot.

Psalm 139: 13-16a
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in the secret place,
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body...

"...Knowing there will never be a day when we will ever get over this, no matter how fast society turns on this axis, we will never move on, we will never forget, we will always hold onto you..."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Half Baked!

20 weeks!!! Baby is officially "half baked". We've made it to the halfway point, as of today, and this little peanut had his or her own little celebration in there today by furiously kicking and dancing around on my bladder! (You go right ahead though killer, you deserve it!)

Yesterday was our Big Anatomy Scan. I tried so hard to stay busy during the day, but I was still a nervous wreck all day and it felt like the hours went by in super slow motion. We finally made it to 3:30 though, and Josh and I headed over to the office.

As I mentioned before, our ultrasound was scheduled in the same office as our scan with Lily was, so it was definitely hard even driving into the parking lot. I remember the exact spot we parked in at that appointment, and as we drove past it and purposely didn't park there, I'm sure we both vividly remembered that walk back to our car after learning of Lily's passing.

Going into the office was no easier, and waiting in the waiting room for almost an hour certainly wasn't easy, but I think walking into that room and seeing that same fish tank that lit up the wall in our scan with Lily was really what made me start to shake. I could barely function enough to get situated on the exam table, but I did, and as Josh held my hand and we looked at that screen, we both let out a huge sigh of relief once we instantly saw the baby squirming on the screen above us.

It got better and better as the tech checked each little body part, starting with the heart (all was well!), then the brain (this was another fear I had after our experience with Ember, but it was perfect!), then all the organs and limbs (all there and accounted for!). Then she got to the "goods" as we will delicately call it, and Josh and I obediently closed our eyes for what seemed like a VERY long time (I just wanted to keep watching our baby move around up there!). We are still Team Green and will not be finding out the sex until the delivery, which I got even more excited about after a friend delivered her baby girl yesterday and it was a complete surprise!

For those who are interested, Josh is 100% convinced it is a girl, and the kids and I are 100% convinced it is a boy. Since all four of us have a track record of being completely wrong, I don't really know what to think. I didn't even know I was carrying twins until I was five months pregnant, so I'm obviously not too "in tune" with my body, but take our guesses for what they're worth!

Here is a great profile picture of our little surprise, and though we don't agree on if it is a boy face or a girl face, we all agree it is a beautiful face...

And here is a picture of baby's foot...for those of you who aren't "ultrasound savvy", I promise, it is indeed a foot. When I got the picture from the tech, I stopped in my tracks when I realized I have an identical picture of Lily's little foot from her last ultrasound.

Here are two little feet (I promise, that's what you're looking at)!

And finally, this is the baby's arm, flexing his or her big muscle. ;)

Of all people, I know how easy it is to say "God is good" when your situation is good, when things are good, when you've just received wonderful news, so my saying how wonderful God is to give us the blessing of a healthy baby and a healthy pregnancy so far may sound trite or shallow or disingenuous, but for those of you who have followed our very long and very painful journey to get here, I think you will understand how very heartfelt it is when I say this...

God. Is. Good.

I prayed in the waiting room before going into that scan that God would stick close to us, no matter what kind of news we got, no matter how we'd feel walking back out of that office. I remembered how my life changed forever the last time I walked out of it, how my relationship with the Lord deepened and my view of the world and my children and life in general was permanently altered that day. I prayed that He would please, please, please allow us to leave this office with good memories, but that if we once again were asked to do something hard, that He would stay close by, that I would be able to still believe that, "God is good" even if I didn't feel it at the time.

When I first learned of this pregnancy, I was devastated. I was not devastated at the thought of a beautiful, healthy baby, of course not. I was devastated at thought, the belief, that I would be forced to endure another incredibly painful loss, another heartbreak, another blow to my faith and my family. I was broken. For months I felt that way. I felt a complete detachment to this baby, not because I wanted to, but because I needed to in order to cope. I don't feel guilty about that, and I don't believe I should. I knew that if I did lose this pregnancy, that the pain would be just as real and just as present and just as sharp as it was with the others, no matter how I had guarded myself. I also knew that if God allowed this baby to grow and thrive and get to a point where I could see them growing and moving and feel them kick and wiggle and respond to Eisley's new Taylor Swift CD with jabs and tiny little dance moves, I knew I would fall in love. I knew that I wouldn't be able to help it.

I couldn't.

I'm in love with that chin, with that nose. I'm in love with those arms and legs and tiny feet that look exactly like Lily's did on her ultrasound. I fall deeper in love every time I feel a tickle or a wiggle or a not so comfortable jab to my nether region. I can't help it.

For Josh, those feelings are coming, but he doesn't get to feel what I'm feeling yet (emotionally that is, I'm not talking about a jab to his nether region, though I'm tempted at times to demonstrate it for him). I know he'll get there too, the first time he gets to feel a kick from the outside or sees my belly jolt from a baby dance move. I know for sure he'll fall head over heels when he gets to hold her ('s totally a him, but whatever) for the first time, when he gets to see the doctor hold her (him) up and tell me I was totally right, it is a boy! ;) But for now, he's still a bit guarded, but so incredibly thankful for the good news we got yesterday.

The fact that we are slowly but surely attaching to this pregnancy, to this child, to this reality, does not by any means erase our sharp awareness that things can still go wrong. No one knows that better than we do. But, this was a big milestone for us, and I could tell that even the kids relaxed a lot when they got the news that the baby looks healthy. On that note, I would like to share with you the most precious letter that Eisley wrote me while she was at school yesterday, knowing we were having our Big Ultrasound.

How sweet is that girl?? I'm so proud of both Jake and Eisley for how strong they have been during this process, but I'm mostly thankful for the encouragement they have been to me and Josh. I don't know what we would do without them.

So...all in all...a great day! I'm trying to enjoy each moment as it comes, but truthfully now I'm even more anxious to hold this baby in my arms and shower it with a million thankful tears!

Thank you so much for your prayers, especially yesterday. We felt them and are so thankful for the awesome friends and family we have!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


19 weeks and 3 days.

That's how long I have had with this baby. That was exactly how long I had with Lily.

I knew, when I first got pregnant with this little one, that if by some miracle I made it this far, I would have a mix of bittersweet emotions about it.

Sweet...this baby is officially bigger than Lily ever was. He or she has made it farther than she was able to. This week I finally felt the baby kicking me, wiggling around, assuring me that they are still alive and well. There is nothing, nothing, nothing as amazing as feeling your child move around inside you. It's something I remember distinctly grieving for after the twins were born. I missed it so much, the feeling of them safe and snug and moving around in there. Last night while Josh and I were driving the baby kicked so hard and so uncomfortably that I squealed in surprise (and some pain too) when it happened. It wasn't a comfortable feeling at all! But it was the most wonderful feeling too. Every time I feel a wiggle, I can breathe a sigh of relief and chant inwardly, "Still alive. Still alive. Still alive."

Bitter...this baby is officially bigger than Lily ever was. He or she has made it farther than she was able to. It  may seem like that shouldn't feel sad, but it absolutely does. This baby has outgrown his or her big sister. They have outlived her. This week, I finally felt the baby kicking me. I never felt Lily move, not once. The first time I felt this baby kick I was lying in bed reading with Josh next to me, and I jumped and exclaimed, "I just felt the baby!!! Finally! Oh my gosh I'm so relieved!" Then, almost instantly, the realization came to me...Lily was so close. So. Close. Days away. If she had lived just a few more days, I would have felt her kick too. I just missed it.

Every single milestone, every single happy moment and healthy ultrasound, every single day is tainted with a small amount of grief. It just is. Yesterday was my birthday, and would have been Lily's first birthday had she not gotten tangled in that cord, had that freak thing not happened, had God allowed her to live...but she did get tangled, and that freak thing did happen, and the Lord had other plans for her. So yesterday she didn't turn one, she didn't turn anything, she never had a birthday and she never will. But I will continue to have them every year, until I don't, and every year I will think of her, and what could have been. Not necessarily what should have been, I'm not saying that, but it is impossible not to think about what could have been.

But instead of celebrating our birthdays together, I celebrated without her. And I felt her little sister or brother wiggle around inside me, and I marveled at the irony that I am at the exact point in my pregnancy now as I was with Lily when I lost her on the very day of the year that reminds me most of her absence. I couldn't have planned that if I tried.

There are a lot of things about this pregnancy that are eerily similar to Lily, so it is of course hard to separate the way they might end. We found out at our mid-point anatomy scan that Lily had passed away. I was just shy of 19 weeks pregnant. Josh's sister and her husband were in Africa. My sister was traveling. I hadn't yet felt her move.

This baby's scan was originally scheduled for last week. I was just shy of 19 weeks pregnant. Josh's sister and her husband are, believe it or not, in Africa. My sister was traveling. I had not yet felt the baby move. It is scheduled at the same place, the exact same office, that our scan with Lily was.

Now I'm not superstitious, but I think even the most skeptical of you will raise your eyebrows at the similar circumstances. And in case you were wondering, yes, it was in fact too much for me and I rescheduled it for a week later hiding behind the excuse that Eisley had another commitment that I wanted to be at. So sue me.

I'm praying that this anatomy scan ultrasound is as different as night and day from the one we had with Lily. I'm praying it will be an hour we can enjoy and bond with this little one as Josh sees him or her moving around on ultrasound for the first time. I'm praying this baby is actually alive when she puts that probe on my belly and we see a beautiful, fast, flickering heart beat and I have to stop the ultrasound tech for a moment because I'm crying tears of joy over it. I'm praying there's nothing wrong, and that it is a wonderfully uneventful hour.

But the fear that it won't go that way, the fear that it will be a repeat of what happened with Lily, a nightmare I can't wake up from...that fear is something I struggle with daily.

Here is what I am afraid of: I am afraid this baby will die. I am afraid there will be something traumatically wrong with it. I am afraid that I will never be able to trust the Lord again if either of those things happen. I am afraid my marriage will suffer, my relationships will suffer, my walk with the Lord will suffer. I am afraid I do not have the capability to grieve another tiny grave. I am afraid we have grossly misunderstood the Lord's calling these past few years and our family is in for yet another heart ache we will struggle to make sense of.

Here is what I am not afraid of: I am not afraid that I won't bond with or adore this child, despite my fears and reservations. I am 100% positive that no matter what my survival instinct is doing to keep me a functioning member of society, every shield I have put up around my heart to guard it from the pain and gripping fears this pregnancy has brought me will be shattered into a million pieces once this child is in my arms. I am not afraid one bit that I might not love him or her, that I might not feel the connection I did with my other children, that I might not unabashedly fall head over heels for this baby, even if right now I have to force a smile on my face when people ask me how the pregnancy is going.

So while things are very bittersweet, they are mostly sweet, because right now I have a seemingly healthy, wiggling, growing baby inside me, and that is a miracle in itself. I am so thankful for that. I am also thankful for about a million other things, so while this part of my life is a challenge, my life is truly, wonderfully good right now.

And this little peanut is growing more every day! Still sporting a very alien-esque vibe right now, but that's okay. :)

And here is a shot of the baby doing some sort of yoga stretch...

And finally, here is me, 19 weeks pregnant, finally taking some pictures so there is proof of it someday. :)

 Just kidding, just kidding. That was actually me as "Juno" at our annual Halloween Costume Party last week posing with Audrey Hepburn. I will say that's pretty much exactly what I looked like in my last month with the twins...but I'm not quite there yet. ;)

Here is what I actually look like. Trying hard to smile but kind of looking forced now that I see it for myself...

If you think of us, please pray for this week's ultrasound. It will be a really tough day and hopefully will turn out to be a wonderful one. We'd appreciate extra prayers as this week is already filled with anxiety over it! Thank you for continuing to follow our little soap opera! I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pregnancy After Loss

What a month! We've been swamped nearly every day with wedding or birthday related activities, and I have to say I am kind of completely exhausted.

I will say, this month has been a welcome distraction from the pregnancy. I haven't had as much time as I usually do to obsess over my next doctor's appointment and compare each and every symptom to my pregnancy with Lily. But, now that things are settling down, I know what's coming. I'm in my 18th week of this pregnancy. Why is that significant? We found out around 19 weeks at our anatomy scan that Lily had died, but she had died at least a week earlier. That means the baby growing inside me right now is exactly the size that Lily was when I held her in my hands for those two hours on Father's Day of last year. This baby, right now, has the exact same sized feet and hands and little lips that Lily had when she came into and swiftly left this world. If I could peer into my tummy and look at this little one, I would see little difference between him or her and the images I have of Lily in my head.

Knowing that brings a whole host of other worries. If Lily died at this point in my pregnancy, maybe this baby will die here too. Maybe they were wrong, and it wasn't a freak cord accident, but some genetic defect that showed itself at 18 weeks and this baby has the same issue. Maybe at this point in the pregnancy my body turned on Lily and is getting ready to turn on this baby too.

Not only do these worries fill my head and my heart, I can't stop myself from comparing this pregnancy to Lily's in every way. Am I showing as much as I did with Lily? I never felt her move, not once, and I still haven't felt completely sure that I've felt this baby move either. Why is that? The other moms I've talked to have definitely felt movement by this time. What's wrong with me? What's wrong with this baby? I try to remind myself that I didn't feel the twins until I was around 22 weeks, and good grief there was two of them in there, but still, I can't help but worry about it.

I remember in my last two weeks or so of my pregnancy with Lily I noticed one morning that I hardly looked pregnant at all. I had been steadily growing a nice little baby bump with her, and I remember very suddenly one day that it looked less prominent, as if from then on, I just stopped growing. Well, Lily had died and had in fact stopped growing, but last night I looked in the mirror and thought to myself that I didn't look as pregnant as I did the day before. I immediately had a minor mental freak out and ran to get my Doppler and find the baby's heartbeat, even though I had checked it and it was fine only hours before. Sure enough, the baby was still alive. But every time I find the heartbeat, every time I think, "The baby is still alive," it is immediately followed by "for now".

This is what pregnancy after a loss, or in my case, multiple losses, is like (for me anyway). It is plastering a smile on your face when people ask you how things are going and saying, "So far so good". While in your head you are thinking, "I think. I mean I haven't checked the heartbeat since last night so for all I know the baby is actually dead right now but you probably don't want to know that."

It is thanking God every time you puke your guts out, even when you are far past the point that you should be puking your guts out, because at least that means things are still progressing. It is also having the realization that you puked every single morning up until the day you gave birth to Lily, so maybe it isn't as reassuring as you thought.

It is sobbing in the doctor's office when she used the Doppler for less than five seconds and couldn't get a read on the heartbeat so she decides to pull in the ultrasound machine "just to give you peace of mind". The sobbing comes from a gripping fear that maybe the baby died in the two hours between you checking the heartbeat at home and her checking it right now. It also comes from realizing that you will never, ever be able to enjoy these moments in pregnancy like other women and you are certifiably nuts for sobbing because the doctor tried for five seconds to find the baby when you know the baby is much higher up than where she checked.

It is holding your breath each and every time you go to the bathroom, hoping you don't see blood or something equally terrifying. It is never getting to a point where you don't expect to see it, even when you are past the point where it would be a sure sign of miscarriage.

It is trying your very best, but failing miserably, to not bond with the baby growing inside you. It is refusing to know the sex of the baby, refusing to think about names, not daring even for a moment to include the baby in your plans past your due date. It is forcing yourself to buy maternity clothing even though every fiber in your being is screaming at you that it is a huge waste of money if you won't need them anymore in a week or two.

It is not trusting your own body to care for the baby inside you, and feeling completely betrayed by it for not being able to carry your other babies to term. It is having no idea why you were able to have healthy babies at one point, but not anymore, and wondering why you seem to be incapable of doing what every woman is supposed to be able to do, keep her babies alive.

It is lying on your back and prodding at your belly praying that you will feel something to reassure you that the baby is alive and well in there. It is feeling something that could possibly be the baby, and immediately talking yourself out of it because your heart won't even let you go there.

It is giving up on the hundreds of "pregnancy no-no's" that the world has come up with in the seven years since you've had a healthy pregnancy because you didn't even know you weren't supposed to have lunch meats or soft cheeses or caffeine or soft serve ice cream for goodness' sake when you had your healthy babies years ago, but followed every rule in the book with your other pregnancies and guess what? The babies died anyway. It is eating a turkey sandwich with a bleu cheese side salad and washing it down with a coke and an ice cream cone and knowing that you have little to no control over whether this baby will die or not, and you wish you could go back to a time where you thought not doing those things would make a difference.

It is watching your daughter kiss your belly and talk to the baby and being torn between feeling absolutely touched that she cares that much and absolutely terrified that she does. It your children asking, "Is the baby still alive today?" instead of "How's the baby?" because they just know too much.

It is people asking you if you're having a boy or a girl, and if you have a preference, and you answering, "Yes. I prefer that the baby be alive when it's born." And them looking at you like you're joking, but you aren't, even a little bit.

It is still having the mentality of a woman who can't carry a healthy baby to term, of a "baby loss mom" but suddenly not "belonging" to that club anymore, because you are, in fact, carrying a seemingly healthy baby right now. You still feel all the same emotions and struggles as you did before, but it is as if you're no longer welcome to express them to other women experiencing loss or infertility. Because now you're one of those women. The pregnant ones who can't possibly know our pain. Who surely instantly forgot what it was like to lose pregnancy after pregnancy and bury a tiny dead baby and grieve her every day just because now she's pregnant again.

It is looking at a healthy pregnant woman and feeling jealous of her. Actually, truly, really jealous of her, and then realizing that you are pregnant too, and you are absolutely insane for feeling that way. Maybe it's because you know you'll never be a healthy pregnant woman again, ever. You're far too damaged.

It is not talking any photos of your growing belly because you're afraid to somehow jinx the pregnancy. It is mustering up the courage to take one picture of your new pregnant profile but instantly regretting it for fear that it will be the last one you ever take.

It is realizing yet another year has gone by, and you still do not have the baby you started trying for years ago. It is someone commenting that there will be "quite the large age gap" between your kids and you wanting to smack them and say, "I DIDN'T PLAN FOR IT TO BE SO BIG!!!"

It is getting to a point in your pregnancy when you realize that the baby has grown to a size that you will now be forced to deliver it if it dies. That you are past the point of being put to sleep and having things taken care of for you, now you will want to hold that baby and see what they look like and bury it in a tiny little casket. It is wondering if there is room next to that other tiny little grave for one more, and wondering if you even have the strength necessary to do that all over again.

 I think there is a great misconception that once a woman gets pregnant after experiencing miscarriages or stillbirth or an early infant loss, that she must be overwhelmed with gratitude that she "has another chance" at getting the baby she's longed for. This is just not accurate. What people don't understand is this: She had the baby she's been longing for. It died.

Pregnancy after a loss is not a replacement, it is not a second chance to get what you tried to get the first time, or the second time, or the third time, or in my case, the fourth time, it is simply another chance to lose. To lose another piece of you that you'll never get back, to lose another baby and add another charm to your necklace, to have your heart shattered once again after gluing it back together so many times before. It is a dark cloud that holds looming possibilities, and only a glimmer of hope that things will go your way.

At least that's what it is for me.

Let's make no mistake. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with this pregnancy, despite my gripping fears and damaged heart. In the rare moments when I let my mind wander to the possibility of one day holding this baby and laughing through my tears at their beautiful face, when I think about who they might look like and how it would feel to finally take a baby home to Jake and Eisley, I plead that the Lord will allow that. But those moments are short-lived and are very quickly swallowed up by the reality of my past.

As the weeks progress, it has definitely gotten a bit easier. The first few weeks and months were, as I've mentioned before, filled with denial and fear. Those emotions have given way to cautious optimism, but the emphasis is heavily on the cautious. But as this baby continues to grow, as I continue to grow, I am being forced to accept the fact that this baby is here. There is a little person with me every day, that I am going to hold and kiss and love completely, whether they are born crying or still. I might as well accept that fact.

Every once in awhile, when we're lying in bed right before falling asleep, I will ask Josh, "Do you think this baby is going to make it?" He will answer me, "I hope so." The other day he put his hand on my tummy for the very first time, and I almost started crying because I realized that he's going through the same things I am. He's trying to protect his heart too, and wrestling with the emotions of knowing there's a baby growing in there and not wanting to get his hopes up too much. But in that moment, he pushed his fears aside and let himself accept it.

We're having another baby, it's happening. We don't know if this baby will be born alive or not, but it will be born. We will hold it, we will love it, we will welcome it into our family and into our hearts. Knowing that fact honestly makes it easier for me to bond with this little one, knowing I will hold him or her, no matter what, and see what they look like and who they look like. That might sound completely morbid or backward or whatever, but it is what it is. We're dealing with all of this in the best way we know how, and we are working hard to give our fears to the Lord and allow Him to work on our hearts.

People tell me all the time that the Lord will not give me more than I can handle. A friend of mine reminded me the other day that she didn't think that was true actually, that the Lord absolutely gives us more than we can handle at times, so that we are forced to lean into Him and allow Him to help us with our load. I have to completely agree. This pregnancy is more than I can handle. It is more than my heart can accept and more than I can deal with emotionally. And sure enough, I have no other choice but to give it to God and let Him work on my heart and help me carry the load. The alternative is cracking under the pressure of it all and completely abandoning my faith and what I know in my heart to be true, that the Lord loves me and wants the best for me and my family, that He has a greater plan than what I can see right now, that He wants so desperately for me to be a part of His will and all I need to do is follow Him. I have absolutely no desire to walk this road alone. That, to me, is far more terrifying than facing what's in front of me.

So we face it, but not alone. Never, for one moment, alone.

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them:
I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why It Matters to Have a Day of Remembrance

Breast Cancer Awareness.
Down Syndrome Awareness.
Domestic Abuse Awareness.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.

The buttons and banners and articles pop up all over Facebook, all over everywhere really, and those are only for the month of October. We are almost bombarded with things to remember, things to be "aware" of, and it makes some people wonder, "Why is it so important to have a day, a week, or an entire month to raise awareness for a certain topic?" Or more specifically, why does it matter to have a month or even a day set aside for something like pregnancy loss? It won't change anything. Not one less baby will die because I changed my profile picture to a pink and blue ribbon or lit a candle in remembrance of the babies who have already died. So what's the point? Why all the fuss? Why is my Facebook being overrun with sad articles and tiny footprints?

This is why.

Go through your Facebook friends list. Run down in your head all the women you know and love. Now take one fourth of those women and say to yourself, "All of these women have lost babies, have had miscarriages, have had infants die early on, have delivered babies born still, have carried babies that died with either no explanation or one that just wasn't good enough."

This is not a statistic I pulled out of thin air, this is reality. One in four women have dealt with some kind of pregnancy loss or early infant death. I actually went through my friends list tonight just to see if the statistic held true for me personally. Guess what? Not only did it hold true, my statistic was closer to one in three. One in three women who have a reason to be remembered today, October 15th, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. And that's only counting the women I know for a fact to have had pregnancy losses, I am positive there are more who just aren't as open about their experiences and have kept quiet about their pain. And to add to that, more than half of the women I counted on my list have had more than one loss, some more than two, some as many as five. How many babies is that? I lost count.

So if that many women have dealt with this kind of pain, have experienced this kind of life altering occurrence, why, why, why is it not all over the place all the time? Why are there not talk shows interviewing Miscarriage Survivors every other day? Why are there not billboards declaring undying support for men and women who have lost children in this manner? Where are the walks and the marathons and the telethons raising support for burial costs for families of stillborn babies or counseling services for women experiencing post traumatic stress disorder or depression after their pregnancy loss? Why aren't ribbons in every grocery store checkout line and why aren't football players sporting a specific color with their cleats and their jerseys and their helmets showing their support for the women fighting to get up in the morning after losing a baby? One. In. Four. Women. Why?

Years ago, there was no such thing as Breast Cancer Awareness. Years ago, breast cancer was considered a "women's problem" that was not to be discussed in polite conversation. It was talked about in whispered voices, usually only by women, and was not something the general public thought about or talked about or felt affected by. Sound familiar? It does to me, because that's where Pregnancy Loss Awareness is right about now. So what changed? I'm not entirely sure, but I think it had something to do with the fact that at some point, somebody woke up and realized that this was not just a women's health issue, this was an epidemic. This was everywhere you turned. Her mother, his sister, my grandmother...all of these women affected by the same thing. People looked up and said, "Hey, wait a second, I currently know four or five women fighting this battle right now. Why is no one talking about this? Something needs to be done! We need to support these women and their loved ones!"

And so Breast Cancer Awareness was born. And at some point, it exploded. Save the Tatas. I Heart Boobies. Pink ribbons, pink shoelaces, pink cookie boxes, pink everything everywhere shouts "BREAST CANCER AWARENESS!!!" Turn on a football game this month. I dare you not to be bombarded with macho manly football players wearing pink something. And every time we see these pink reminders, we are reminded. There are women, everywhere, fighting like hell to stay alive after a shocking diagnosis they had no control over. Remember them. Support them. Don't make them fight their battles silently. Stand by them.

This. This is what I want for the women fighting a silent battle after losing a baby. I am so proud of our country for how it has risen up to support women fighting breast cancer. But sometimes I wonder, where's the support for the hundreds of thousands of women affected by pregnancy loss? Why is this something most women still feel they must endure alone, quietly? Why is this still a topic whispered about mainly by women because men won't touch the subject with a ten foot pole? Why has my husband had one, maybe two friends even acknowledge his losses? Why do I have women quietly message me and tell me that they, too, experienced pregnancy loss twenty, thirty, fifty years ago but have never talked about it with anyone? Why is this subject so hush hush? Why was breast cancer once so hush hush? Because it is sad? Because it is uncomfortable to talk about? Why?

I won't pretend to know the answer to that. I will only say that bringing awareness to these kinds of issues and topics takes time, and it takes voices. Lots of voices. Unfortunately, the voices of pregnancy loss are usually silenced in their grief. And if that doesn't do it, it usually only takes about one or two idiotic and insensitive remarks to make a woman vow to never talk openly about their experience again. And maybe two or three other women overheard or read those insensitive remarks and vowed to themselves to never talk openly about their experiences for fear of having someone say something like that to them. And then there is the common misconception that one shouldn't bring up such a painful topic for fear of reminding the person experiencing pregnancy loss of their pain. As if saying, "I was thinking of you and your sweet baby today, and I am so sad you are missing them," might somehow make that person go, "What!?! Thanks a lot! I had COMPLETELY forgotten about my baby until JUST NOW when you said that!"

Let's do a little comparison shall we? Let's say a friend is diagnosed with breast cancer. She is currently being treated and starting on a hard road to recovery. What might one do? Well, one might change their profile picture to a pink ribbon. One might leave encouraging messages for the woman fighting this battle on her Facebook wall. One might offer their assistance in the form of meals, child care, or grocery shopping. One might send a card in the mail reiterating their love and support. One might offer to drive their friend to their doctor's appointments or even sit with them during chemo. One says, "I am praying for you! You will get through this, and I will be here by your side all the way!" One signs up to do a 5k in honor of their friend. One wears a pink ribbon on their work badge. One does anything and everything they can, because their friend is fighting a hard battle, and the least they can do is fight it with them.

One does not say to themselves, "Well, I don't want to rub in their faces that I myself do not have breast cancer, so I will just not speak to them until they are cured." One does not say, "I don't want to remind them that they have breast cancer, so I will just pretend that they don't have it at all." One does not tell their friend, "Friend, this was just God's will. It is something you must accept and move on from." One certainly would not say to their other friends behind said friend's back, "That friend of ours. When is she going to get over this breast cancer thing? I mean, sure, it's sad, but isn't it time she move on with her life?" Or maybe this friend lost a breast to her battle with cancer. Would a friend say, "Oh, well, at least you have another breast. Be thankful for the breast you have."?

Atrocious. Anyone with a friend such as this should immediately run in the other direction and never speak to that person again. Yet...things like this are said to grieving mothers every single day.

"I don't want to rub in their face that I have never had a miscarriage. I can't relate to them. I will just avoid them."

"I don't want to remind them of their loss, so I will just not mention the baby ever again as long as I live."

"I know it's hard, but it's God's will. You must accept it and move on."

"When is Suzy going to get over her miscarriage? It was months ago. I mean, sure, it's sad, but when will she move on?"

"At least you have other children, Suzy. Be thankful for the ones you have."

I myself have been the recipient of some of those gems, and know at least one woman who has been the recipient of all the others. It used to make me gawk in disbelief. I have come to accept it as ignorance. As not knowing any better. As the product of an environment where people don't discuss the issue, so no one knows what to do when their friend or loved one is faced with it.

This. This is why it is important to have these "Awareness" months, or weeks, or days. It gives mothers like me permission to shout from the rooftops, "MY BABY DIED, AND I STILL STRUGGLE WITH THEIR LOSS." It opens the door for others who might not otherwise have the courage to talk about their loss to do so. It starts conversations. Conversations about how to support women and men experiencing pregnancy or infant loss. Conversations about what is not appropriate to do or say. Conversations about why these losses occur, how they affect the parents and the siblings and the grandparents. It shows women that they are not alone in their grief. That so many others have been through it and can relate to their pain. That what they are experiencing is not only normal, it is okay.

It is okay that I still miss Lily, over a year after she was buried. It is okay that I feel random moments of grief for the three babies I will never hold again in this lifetime. It is okay that I cry sometimes. It is okay that I laugh sometimes. It is okay that I grieve however I choose to grieve. It is okay that she did a balloon release today in honor of her baby and she only lit a candle in honor of her many lost little ones and I did nothing but write this blog. It's okay. Because we're in it together, and the only reason we know we're in it together is because we're open about our losses, and we are open about our support.

Please, please understand my heart as you read this. I am not in any way saying, "Darn those breast cancer survivors, they get all the glory." As I said before, I am so, so proud of how our society has stepped up to support those women and love on them during their battle. I use them as a comparison because I think they were once in our shoes, fighting a battle silently, a battle no one felt comfortable talking about, a battle practically no one showed their support of. And look at them now. The entire world takes pride in standing up next to those women, in making sure they know they are not alone.

I don't wear a ribbon or have some badge of honor showing that I have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss, not one the general public recognizes, anyway. I wear a bracelet with Lily's name on it. I wear a necklace every minute of every day with three tokens for my three babies that are no longer here. But if there was some recognizable, universal badge showing support for the survivors of pregnancy and infant loss, you better believe I would proudly wear it every day.

And maybe, if we keep working at it, someday there will be.