Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day, Darling

I sit here with a sick toddler on my lap and a load of poopy clothes in the washing machine as she watches cartoons.  My husband is upstairs asleep after getting home at 2 a.m.  He will awaken in an hour to get ready for work once again not getting home until 10 p.m. tonight.

And this is our Valentine's Day.
And I am filled with joy that this is our Valentine's Day.

There was a time when I would have been upset that I didn't awaken to a card, flowers and chocolates.  There was a time when I measured how much he loved me on what he got for me on this day.  And maybe I still do feel loved based on his actions...but it's different now.

Maybe it's because I'm a mother now and God has taught me so much about my own selfishness. Maybe it's because difficult times have put priorities in perspective.

Or, maybe it's just God working in me.

Today, I feel loved by my husband, because he works so hard to provide for our family.  He loves his daughter, and our beautiful daughter to arrive in a few months, so much that he never gets a good night's sleep.  And even after an 11 hour shift, he stops by Wal-Mart to get our sick little angel some Pedialyte.

Today, I know I am loved by him, because he doesn't quit when times are not ideal.  When we don't have a lot of money in the bank, when sickness, disappointment and let downs have beset our family the past year; he keeps loving us.
He keeps loving me by being the leader our family needs.  He directs us to focus our attention on who God really is--His love demonstrated on the cross, his grace given every day and his never changing state.

This Valentine's Day, my husband Eric, has given me the best gift of all.  The gift of himself.  He is truly my dream come true.  I see that more now after 8 years of being together than I ever did before.

He is my best friend.  My rock.  He is, now and always, my Valentine.

I love you, Eric.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Why I Hate the Question, "How are Feeling?", When I'm Pregnant

When a woman is pregnant, others who care want to know how she is doing.  Of course, they do. They are excited and hopeful.  They want to know if she feels sick, tired and any other quirks the pregnancy brings.
Loving people are going to ask.

I totally understand this. 
That's why it is so very difficult when those wonderful people  ask me the question, "How are you feeling?"

It's like a punch in the gut for me-like someone is poking around in a very sore, tender wound.  And I hate that it's like that.

I am pregnant.  I am happy about that.  

But I'm also still grieving the loss of the baby I carried months before this one.  
I'm also grieving the first 3 months of this pregnancy that were very scary not knowing if the bleeding would ever fully stop or the hemorrhage would get bigger and end the pregnancy.  
I'm not completely off of those pins and needles.

I also wish that, this pregnancy, I could have told people about how terrible my morning sickness has been.  I WISH I could have vomited at least once.  I wanted confirmation that my body was doing it's job.  I wanted to be sick.  

But, I wasn't sick in the traditional way.  After being diagnosed with a missed miscarriage and threatened miscarriage within a few months, I was overwhelmingly sick with heartache.

So, when someone asks how I'm feeling, it kinda sucks.  I don't want to answer. 
I don't want to think about it.  I want to continue with life without being reminded of all of the pain and concern that surrounds this pregnancy.  

As time passes it helps.  As we pass each milestone in the pregnancy, I hope more and look forward to the day this baby will rest in my arms.

I know my awkward answers may baffle some well meaning people who ask how I feel.  Well, here's why I give short answers and change the subject quickly.  It's nothing anyone else did.  It's my own way of trying to get through another day and focus on what is ahead instead of what I can't control today.

I thank all of you who have asked out of concern.  I haven't known what to say many times, but I do appreciate the support.

On a brighter note, the baby is developing perfectly so far.  We are so very grateful for this.  Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

To Know Christ no Matter the Cost

I've been putting off writing this.  But I really need to.  Not just for myself, but for others that read and need to know that someone else in this world feels the same way.

I love Christmas.  I love the carols, lights, the excitement, the smell of a fresh cut tree and making Christmas cookies that never quite come out looking like reindeer but some sort of blob with antlers.

With that said, this Christmas, I find myself just wanting it to be over.  I still love all of those things.  I mostly love seeing my daughter enjoy looking at our tree and participate in the fun holiday activities.  I am not enjoying it the way she is, though.  I wish I were.

I miss the baby that I would be 27 weeks pregnant with right now.  I miss so much of what I don't get to experience with that child.  And I feel very alone in this.
Life goes on.  But, the pain is real.  It's hard to resume normal activities and be blissfully happy during the holidays-even if you're pregnant again.

Every child is important and loved.  If a child died of parents who had several children, would the parents cease to mourn if another child came into the family?
I feel as though people forget that my child died.  They never got to know them.  Never saw them, and therefore, don't miss them in the same way.

I intensely miss my baby.
I carried that child.  I talked to, sang to, prayed for, and hoped for that child.  I felt the signs of life in my body-and the signs of death.  My arms still ache from the emptiness.  My soul grieves.

It's as though you are shown something so fantastically beautiful you can't take your eyes off of it.  It creates something wonderful in you as you take in it's magnificence.  But it is suddenly taken away-without explanation.  You are left stunned.  Dumbfounded, and deeply saddened.

So, the holidays aren't exactly super fun this year.  Although, I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life, I still have the right to be sad.
Even if people don't understand.

If a loved one passes away, family and friends can reminisce about them at the holidays. Cry with each other.  Comfort one another.
But, this is different.  Because a loved one that no one knew was lost.

No one knew the baby in the same way the mother did.  There is a degree of separation others have from the pain, that I almost envy.  That creates an intense sense of isolation.

I am pregnant again.  I am thankful for this baby that looks to be okay so far.  It was touch and go there for a few months.  And, I will most likely never fully feel at ease the rest of the pregnancy.

However, I take each day as it comes.  Good or bad.  Whether I'm crying about what has or may happen or busying myself with other things.  I ask God to have mercy.  I feel wholly inadequate that he forgives my screw ups and lack of faith so completely and lovingly.  Yet, he does.  It is often more difficult to accept that fact than to focus on how you'll never measure up.  It is so much better to focus on the Christ that saved the world by entering it as a helpless child.  With a word, he saves, calms, forgives and transforms.

The fact that he even blessed me with the knowledge of the 2 babies we lost, is beyond gracious.  I am so happy we will be reunited in heaven.  I can't wait to hug them so tight for about 1,000 years!

I thank God for being separated from his Son while he was on this earth and the cross.  For going through the ultimate separation when Jesus endured hell for us.  He watched his Son die the ultimate death.

Although, I don't understand why this grief is mine for this lifetime, I know there is a plan far reaching my understanding.  I know my God grieves with me as well.

That all may know him-no matter the cost.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Miss You

Missing my babies so terribly tonight, and praying fiercely for the one in my womb.  God, have mercy.  See the plight of one unworthy but covered in the blood of the Lamb.  
Thank you that we will see them again in our eternal resting place.

Monday, November 17, 2014

To Be, or Not to Be...

You know those times when your heart is so full-full of happiness or sadness or anger or...all of the above-that your brain just can't form words to truly express what's happening in there?

Yeah, that's where I'm at.

I find myself on the verge of tears, wanting to laugh out loud and scream all at the same time.  

Here, writing, seems to be the only safe place to express the true inner ruminations that could easily be viewed as diagnosable. 

So, I thank you for reading and caring and praying.  I open my heart up in a way that helps give me peace in a way that I know God designed.

Our latest outing with baby was to the ER.  Yes.  Just 3 days after we had a great doctor's visit, saw the baby, no problems...there I was bleeding heavily.  

Stunned.  Scared.

"Why God?"
"Why would we come this far, to lose the baby now?  I know you are good and love me...but I don't understand this."

I cuddled tightly to Sarah as what I hoped would get better, didn't.  I sat on the kitchen floor watching her cook me plastic food when tears started streaming down my face.  And then the inclination came.

After we had our service in the mountains for the babies in heaven, we always sang It is Well with My Soul.  Standing over those little graves, I thought of seeing them again as the notes rose into the sky.

My mind went back to those moments.  I wasn't thinking. "My baby is gone."  No, I was thinking, "God knows what is best.  He takes care of all of our babies."

As I sat there, watching my little girl play so happily, a half smile spread across my face as I sang this beautiful song-the tears rolling over my quivering lips.  

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
    • It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. It is well with my soul,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

We went to the ER that day.  I was a bit apathetic about it.  So much has happened.  I know that things can very quickly change. I have learned more so not to take anything for granted. 

Thankfully, we had wonderful staff at the ER, barely any wait and the baby looked great.

The diagnosis was a hemorrhage, which I had already and thought had healed.

The next day at church, tears came again as we sang that familiar hymn.

It is well. 

Yes.  It is well with my soul, Lord.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Are We There Yet? Early Days with Baby #4.

The news of baby #4's existence was a surprise...a very pleasant surprise.  On the heels of a painful miscarriage came the news of a new baby.

6 weeks
Within a week of finding out, I found myself preparing to miscarry again.  I started bleeding, and more than a little.  I came to accept the fact that this could happen and waited for it to get worse.  But it didn't.  It got better over that weekend.

At our already scheduled appointment that Monday morning, we saw the tiniest little being whose heart was flickering like a beacon of light on the large screen in front of us.  There was no explanation for the bleeding. 

I left so relieved, and hopeful.  
And scared.
7 weeks
As the days passed,  I continued to be cautiously excited.  Some spotting continued here and there. At the next appointment, we saw a strong heartbeat.  

But there was a clot.
Blood/bleeding showed up next to the baby. The doctor said that these resolve themselves in 90% of cases.

Having our recent past in the forefront of my mind, I was very unsettled with these odds. The doctor read the concern on my face and scheduled another ultrasound when it wasn't necessary.  For this, I am so thankful and absolutely love this doctor so far.

Thankfully, that ultrasound was perfect.  The ultrasound tech first checked to see a heartbeat which was evident.  She zoomed in on this little miracle.  Little arms and legs wiggled around as she let us hear one of the most beautiful sounds on this earth.  
9 weeks
The sound of a child's heart.  

After the tech left the room, I broke out in sobs. Weeks of wondering got answered in the matter of a few moments.

There was no bleeding.  No clot.  I'm pretty sure it passed the night before.  That tiny little thing caused me so much grief as it rested beside a tiny little being that brought me so much joy.

A few days after that, the nurse called saying I need to take an antibiotic to eradicate bacteria seen in my urine.  Sigh.  I thought.  "Can I just get through this pregnancy without something else happening?"  I realize this problem seems insignificant.  
Keep in mind...I've been to that doctor's office almost every week, sometimes twice, since mid August.  It's exhausting, and I just want everything to be okay for awhile.

So, here we are.  We're a few weeks away from the end of the first trimester, and honestly, I'm very ready to get there.  I'm ready to get to the end of the pregnancy and hold my baby.  I loved being pregnant with Sarah, and I'm praying I will truly start to love being pregnant with this baby.

Just because I'm pregnant again, doesn't mean I've stopped grieving the child we lost just months ago. It's so different this time.  Different than it was after we lost our first child.  It's confusing.  

I am elated that the baby I carry now is doing well.  Yet, my heart still hurts missing the child that resided in the same place a short time ago.

I am thankful for new revelations in my heart this year that have helped me prepare for our circumstances.  I have learned, and continue to, what God's grace really means.  What his sacrifice means.  The all-encompassing covering of his redemption.  I have to thank Eric for leading our family to a church that has taught me so much.

I've come to realize that "giving it to God", "letting go" and "just trusting Him" are not ways that are natural to me.  When people say to do those things, I've always felt helpless and thought, "Okay so, how do I do that?"

I'm thankful God doesn't require me to do anything at all before I talk to him.  I've always believed that there was something wrong with me if I was worrying, not able to be free from the burdens of life.  But, there isn't.  It's a normal human condition, that even Christ felt the weight of.  Yet, He knew how to pray.  

I am learning that I don't have to feel guilty, because I can't "let go".  No, I need to pray!  I need to open myself up to God and be vulnerable.  I need to talk to Him about it, because he is the only one that can sufficiently carry my burdens.  I don't have to figure out a way to let go of something inconceivable to me in order to please God.  No, he loves me as I am, where I am and in what state I am.  

Christ is well acquainted with grief.  He knew sorrow to a depth far reaching my understanding.  I can spout nonsense, and he makes sense of it all.  My journey is not about what I have done on my own for God.  No, it's about His love that covers, renews, enlightens and ultimately brings glory to the name that is above all names.

I will continue to share our story as Miracle Baby Russell grows.  I included the pictures, because it amazes me to see how intricately God creates us in such a short time.  Just astounding and touching.  Our God is so great.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support.  It means so very much to us.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What to do after someone has a miscarriage

People ask after a loss, "What can I do for you?"

Here are some general guidelines that have worked for me.  Keep in mind, they won't apply to every woman/family.

By the way, I use the pronoun they most of the time, because I am referring to the woman who miscarried, her partner and family as miscarriage is a loss for them all.

1.) Ask if it's okay to come by, and let them tell YOU when and how.  Visits are...difficult.  When you're feeling like the world turned upside down and is resting on your chest, you don't really like to sit and chat.  Also, depending how the miscarriage happened, she may be in pain or waiting to complete the miscarriage.  They aren't going to want company if that's the case.
Also, don't bring anyone they aren't expecting even if  it's a close friend or family member.  They probably don't really want to hang out.  It takes a lot of emotional preparation to interact.  Think of it this way-someone very precious and dear to you just died suddenly and you are also so sick you can barely move-would you want people popping in?

2.) Bringing food is good. It's awesome. They are not going to be thinking about cooking and may not want to go out to get food. Just don't linger unless they seem like they want to talk.  You could ask if you could leave it on the porch or if you should come inside.

3.) When they start going to social events, don't be awkward around them.  They know when you're avoiding eye contact or trying not to have to talk to them, or over compensating by trying to be funny.  They may act weird, but that's okay.  Let them act differently.  Grief is not just sadness.  It is denial and anger and all of those things that people don't like to see.  It's a lot of emotions all mixed up together that are expressed in ways that aren't always socially acceptable.  Love them anyway.

4.) This may not be an issue for others, but I personally have a really difficult time with the question, "How are you?"  When people ask so many times a day, the pain emerges to the surface.  It is a simple question.  A polite question.  It's a reminder for some going through a miscarriage of just how crappy they do feel when they are trying desperately to somehow fit back into a world that seems to be spinning out of their control.  It's a reminder of how much sadness overwhelms them constantly.  It's not a bad thing to ask, but it can be seen as a silly question since obviously they are not doing well at all.  Then again, I've never been one for small talk.

5.) Try to avoid asking questions.  Remember, they don't want to be the one to educate you on this subject at this particular time or maybe ever.  It's not her or her family's responsibility.  And she doesn't necessarily want to give you details about what pain (physical or emotional) she is in at the present time.  If she wants to talk about it, she will.  And let her.  One of the worst things to do is stop her from talking if she wants to open up.  And listen letting her know you are sorry for her loss.  This is terribly painful and excruciating to talk about. She is questioning herself constantly and doesn't need a reminder from you of all of those questions that have no answers.  And on that note, try not to say things like, "This is common.  You'll have a healthy baby one day."  or "Just give it time.  You'll feel better."  Those things could be true...but not helpful when their hearts are torn in two.

6.) Telling stories about what you've heard from others or on the Internet may be your way of connecting, but isn't always comforting.  No situation is the same, not even when the same woman has multiple miscarriages.  It's understandable that you want to make them feel better by doing this.  However, it could actually be the opposite of comforting.

7.)  Go to the funeral/memorial service if they have one.  This demonstrates how much you support them.  How you validate the life that meant so much to them and was suddenly ended.  I can't reiterate this enough.  It's a funeral.  It's the funeral of their child.  Pay your respects.

8.) Keep on giving support to them months later.   Just because some time passes, doesn't mean they're going to be back to normal.  This was an enormous loss of hope.  It's going to take time to regain any sense of normalcy.  Let them know you still pray for them.  The pain may still be very real for women who have had miscarriages years or even decades ago.

9.) Remember it may be difficult for them to be around babies or pregnant women for awhile.  Be sensitive to this.  Let them know ahead of time if you are able that those expecting or with newborns will be at social gatherings.  Then they can decide if they can handle it and not feel taken off guard when they walk in to see a glowing pregnant woman or newborn.  It's going to happen, and they may have a hard time with it.  Let them have a hard time with it.  They aren't upset someone else is happy. They are grieving the hole left from the absence of their deceased child.

10.) Be there for them in the way THEY need.  That means respecting their wishes.  Pray with them.  Love them.  Send cards, e-mails, texts and messages of encouragement letting them know you are thinking and praying for them. And... pray again and again.

Those things will most likely make them feel loved while expressing how much you care.
Just remember, you can't fix grief.  Be honest, open and real.  It goes a long way.