Closing a chapter.

IMG_0690My dearest boy,

One of the most profound statements, in my opinion, that I’ve ever made in this little writing space of mine is that there would never be enough time to love you with all that I have.

And as we approach the birth of your little brother or sister, that statement has been swirling around in my head. Because it’s true. There was not enough time.

Anticipating the arrival of your sibling does not mean I will stop loving you, of course. But the time and attention I’ve been able to devote to just you is ceasing, and the tears that fall when I think of that are a mixture of gratefulness and sadness of this era that is coming to an end.

God really hit it out of the park by giving your father and I you as a first child. I do not know if that will help us to be better parents this second time around, or if it scares us to think there is no possible way to have another child like you. Because, boy, are you special. And one of my biggest prayers have been to never compare our newest arrival to the baby and child and now young man you have become, because it just wouldn’t be fair. There’s something about you, little man. You’re from a mold never to be replicated.

I’ve always been very intentional in my relationship with you, but even more so since finding out about this baby. I will fondly look back to the summer of 2014 as one of our best. I will forever remember mornings of making pancakes, racing in pools, playing soccer on the beach, and days in the city. IMG_0692

But most of all, I’ll remember how well you loved and cared for me. How the young man who was beginning to grow began to become aware as well that our relationship would be changing and so he grabbed my hand a bit more often and cuddled on the couch more frequently.

For months now, I’ve been hearing what a great big brother you will be. But really, I think about what an amazing husband you will be one day should you choose to get married. From opening car doors for me to yelling–yes, yelling–every time you saw me bend to pick up something because I was pregnant and should not be doing “manual labor” as you called it, your heart to care and protect someone you love was so evident. You let me rest, you learned a lot more independence, and I’m so grateful for this immense understanding you have with all we’ve dealt with these last nine months.

I love you, my son. A baby will never change that, and yet I know I will now need to learn how to divide, or at least share, my attention between a new creation that needs me and a young man who does as well. That’s hard to do after ten years. I will have children in two very completely different stages of life and I pray for the grace and knowledge to know how to deal with both simultaneously. I am confident that both of us will rise to the challenge.

Tofer, there’s no doubt you have been one of my best friends. And I pray you will never be negatively affected by this new arrival, but only experience joy in this new season of our lives. Having another child was never an indication of not being 100% completely satisfied with having only you. The peace and contentment the Lord gave me in being okay with having an only child was overwhelming. You are and will remain one of my earthly everythings. The space you have in my heart is going to be hard to shift, but I know it will be done. It’s hard to imagine loving another the way I’ve loved you, and that’s the truth being written, but I know I will love your sibling in both the same and different ways. There’s no doubt though that our relationship will always be built on something immensely special.

I feel like there’s so much more I can write, but I’ll end it here. With a lot of love and gratefulness to God about the son he has thus far blessed me with.

I pray on the days of sleepless nights and having a tired mama, you will be filled with understanding. I pray your sibling will be your new best friend despite the age gap. I pray you will be blessed by this new arrival and never miss your “only child” status.

No, Goob, there was not enough time to love only you with all that I have. But, I pray, there are many many more decades to come of continuing to try.

Congratulations on being promoted to big brother. I hope it is everything you have imagined it to be.

With love always,

Mommy

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Navigating the Waters of Pregnancy Loss

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-dayOctober is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. From the October 15th website:

In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  ‘When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan.  When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower.  When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.  This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world.  It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.’

Robyn Bear, founder of www.october15th.com, and founder of October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day envisioned a day when all grieving parents could come together and be surrounded by love and support from their friends and families, a day where the community could better understand their pain and learn how to reach out to those grieving. This would be a day to reflect on the loss yet embrace the love. While our babies’ lives where so brief, they were also very meaningful. Yet, there was not a time to talk about them. Our society seemed to forget or perhaps, simply didn’t know how to reach out. Since October had been proclaimed “Awareness Month”, she chose a day, in the middle of the month to become, “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day”.

I have written a bit about our first loss in 2009 and though I am currently seven months pregnant, many people do not know that this is actually my second pregnancy in 2014.

We suffered our second miscarriage in March of this year.  This time it was a chemical pregnancy.  It’s a topic I hope to explore further as I begin to pick up with writing in this space again.  For now, I’ll be brief and say that it did not matter than I lost the pregnancy the same week I found out about it.  As a Christian and someone who is pro-life, that baby was a person, a human, from the moment of conception.  And from the moment that pregnancy test blurted out POSITIVE, we planned and we shared.  And when a few days later, we left a hospital room with an empty womb, we cried and we grieved.

This time around was a lot different from in 2009.  And I did want to share some thoughts about that.

In 2009, I became very angry about our loss.  Angry at God.  Angry at life in general.  We had planned, we had prayed, and it happened right away.  So when the baby was taken away from us, it did not make sense in my mind.  I did not have a good support system in place and I was not in a place where I felt I could talk to my husband.  This was very selfish because the whole time I was thinking about my grief and not even considering how he felt about his loss in the situation.  I withdrew, not socially, but from reading the Bible and being in prayer with God.  The person I became that following year wasn’t the worst I’ve ever been, but nowhere near who I should have been at that point.  Again, it was a lonely road; one that not many people could observe outwardly, so in their eyes I’m sure they thought everything was alright.  But I was struggling.  I was depressed.  I felt guilt, and shame, and a vast array of emotions that not only were not godly but simply not correct.

2014 was so different.  I credit my growth to God, of course, but the means He used was a church we’ve been attending for over four years now.  I am stronger in my faith.  2013 was, by far, my worst year yet.  Our year started with my cousin dying in a nightclub fire in January.  I became sick again with bronchitis that lasted for weeks and strep throat.  There were personal issues I cannot go into details about. My mother was hospitalized three times over the course of one month. And our year ended with all of us very ill, including our son having a case of pneumonia that we thought was surely going to land him in the hospital. I’m sure there are other happenings I am forgetting to list, but my only point in writing them out is to note that after having a year like that, a miscarriage early in 2014 would have been enough to set the old me over the edge.

It didn’t.

Having come through all those 2013 events with an amazing body of believers and friends, learning how to pray my way through the trials, and never questioning God’s reasoning or love for me in the midst of those trials helped me to deal with our March loss head-on.

It wasn’t that I was callous and did not care.  It’s not even a matter of saying, Oh, God is sovereign, so it is what it is.  No, there was sadness.  There were questions.  There were a lot of “whys?”  But I communicated. I let people in.  I did not shut my husband nor God out.  We persevered.  We were going to come through.

We didn’t have to “come through” for very long because three weeks later, I was pregnant again.  But that’s a story for another day.

I’ll be honest.  It’s weird to type this entry out–about our losses–while I’m feeling our baby kick inside of me. There’s a guilt there.  A guilt of why should I grieve our losses when I have an amazing ten-year-old, healthy child and another, Lord willing, on the way.

But it’s a lie to believe that any point I shouldn’t remember those losses and think back to those pregnancies. They are a part of my story.  I will always remember them.  And not just on October 15.

Sometimes I think about the five-year-old I would have had when this new baby comes.  I’ll always wonder how my March babe would have been regardless of his or her little brother or sister coming to us soon after.

And that’s okay.  And I want to make sure that others who have experienced these losses–in whatever stage of pregnancy–know that it’s okay too.

I leave you now with some Do’s and Don’ts as you navigate the waters of pregnancy loss.  (I am intentionally not referencing infant loss, as I cannot speak to that pain.)  This is not an all-inclusive list, but just some from the top of my head at this moment.  Again, as I hope to write more on this subject, I plan to write out more detailed posts on my journey.  I’m also sure there are plenty of other blogs or websites that you can search for that have already done a fine job of outlining ways to help you cope with your loss.

Do…talk through your grief.  Ideally, this should be your spouse.  But there may be a need for a more trained professional.  Just talk; please talk.  Share your story.  Don’t bottle it in.  It will destroy you if you do.  There are support groups, both in person and online that can help.  And this is a BIG do: DO LET YOUR SPOUSE IN.  DO CONSIDER THEIR FEELINGS AS WELL.  Don’t think that just because you are the one who physically experienced the loss, that their pain is not great too.  Allow your spouse to be the one to crumble from time to time.  Allow them to grieve and cry and ask questions.  Allow them to feel the depth of the pain.  ASK THEM.  MAKE THEM SHARE.  Don’t ever, EVER assume they do not care the way you do or that their pain is not there because they are quiet when, more than likely, it is because they are trying to be strong for you.

Don’t…feel guilty about talking about it.  One of the biggest lies I gave into the first time around was believing that because I had a child already, I should not be upset over the loss.  That I was blessed because there were women who could not even have one.  While there are times to prefer others above yourself and to be sensitive to the plights of others, do not feel shame in sharing about your sadness and grief whether you have one child or ten.  A loss is a loss because a life is a life.

Do…accept help from others.  This is something I myself need to be better about.  It’s amazing how you can go through something and be passionate about a topic, and, yet, when it happens to someone else you forget to follow-up.  In our loss this year, people came over.  They texted. Continuously.  They sent cards, brought flowers, and made meals.  They offered to watch Chris during appointments or if I needed a break.  If people are offering this help, take it.  Again, this death–though, of course, not as intense as the loss of an infant/older child/adult–is still a loss and one you need time to grieve over and heal from.  Allow others the opportunity to encourage you in this time.

Don’t…feel the pressure to just “get over it.”  Don’t move on before you are ready to.  Your grief will look different from others.  Some will bounce back quicker and it’s not because they do not care.  It’s their personality.  Take time with your grief.  Take time with deciding if you are emotionally ready to try to have another child.  Do not rush your grief.  Do not despair in it, but do not wish it gone.

Do…remember.  This is going to look different for everyone.  For some, it means naming their baby. For others, it’s releasing balloons on a certain day or continuing to acknowledge that life with a keepsake (Christmas tree ornament, jewelry, etc.).  For us, we did not do anything like that.  Only because I did not feel I had to.  I’m content and at peace by allowing those lives to pop into my mind here and there. On their “due dates” I pray they are in heaven and that I will get to meet them one day.  Don’t bury your baby’s memory. Acknowledge them for the time you had them.

Don’t…be upset if you do not get the follow-up calls/texts or when people say the wrong things.  People will forget. And they will say things you just do not want to hear at the time.  That’s the benefit to remembrance days and awareness months.  It’s a time for us those who have experienced the “cause” to teach others about our pain and what is–and is not–appropriate.  Our losses are not in vain.  Though sad to write, I cannot begin to tell you the amount of women I have been able to help because of my experience whether with advice, knowledge on research I’ve done, or simply lending an understanding ear.

And finally,

Do…share your story.  Acknowledge your baby periodically to your family, friends, and on social media.  Don’t think it’s weird.  If they pop into mind, share it.  This is the only way people will know to reach out to you and a great way to demonstrate to them how to walk this often overlooked road of pregnancy loss grief.  When we don’t talk, people think there’s nothing to talk about.  Or that we don’t want to.  Share your story so that when a woman in your life–and the likelihood of this is statistically great–experiences this loss, they will know who to turn to.

In a future post, I hope to gather and list some resources that I have found to be beneficial.  In the meantime, if you need any information or someone to speak to please do not hesitate to contact me. For now, feel free to peruse the October 15th official site linked at the top of this entry.

I leave you with these words that comforted me greatly earlier this year:

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:16 ESV

God knew the number of your baby’s days even before He formed him or her.  It would seem odd to find comfort in a verse that proves God knew when my babies would leave me.  But I do because it is a reminder that He alone is in control.  And while there are many things on earth that do not make sense to me, He is all-knowing.  And I have to be okay with that.  I have to trust Him.

Be blessed friends.  If I am aware that you have experienced a loss, know that I am praying for you today.

Let’s walk this road together.

With love always,

Lis.

*Picture via

The Never-Ending Cycle

photo(1)I sighed as I placed yet another load into the washing machine.

I’ve long given up on trying to figure out how three people, one being a child, are able to produce so much laundry.

It’s like the song that never ends. One load in; one out, almost daily.

Separating. Folding. Putting away. Over and over again.

As I stood at the white machine this morning, removing clothes one by one from the hamper to place them in for their weekly washing, I remembered to be grateful for the tasks that do not end.

For one day, they will.

One day, little people will grow up.  And taking their laundry with them, there will be less clothing in the wash than there was before.  I’ll long for the days of grass-stained denim and sweaty Little League shirts and chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup dripped across faded shirts that are worn over and over again despite a drawer full of new ones because of how loved that one shirt is.

I think about those that are single and how, perhaps, they dream as they do their laundry to one day have another to do such a meaningful task for.  For in the dreariness of redundancy, there is beauty in serving others.

In just a few short months, I’ll add to my load–both literally and figuratively–with spit-up onesies and other let’s not mention it right now types of stains and I know there are women out there longing to see these things in their machines.  For their never-ending cycles are far worse than mine–each month to want the one thing they are not getting.

There are many other “never-endings” in my life, but I want to be the woman who relishes in the goodness and security that they provide than to grow bitter that they do not cease.

And so I put one more load in.  The hamper stays empty for all of twelve seconds before the socks I told him to make sure weren’t left on the floor finally get picked up and put in their proper destination. Right after the load is done.

Yes, the security of those white socks always await me.

And I am happy.

I am blessed.

May may be over, but let’s still celebrate.

How did June creep up on me so quickly!?  Well, it did.  And though May is over, we’re going to keep on celebrating motherhood as I finish posting up a few blog entries from dear friends.  Let’s pray I get them all up before Father’s Day!

Today’s guest post comes from one of my favorite women–my first pastor’s wife.  Christina was a great friend, confidant, and mentor to me as not only a new Christian but as a new wife and mother.  She amazed me with her calm demeanor though she carried the weight of ministry alongside her husband and, wait for it, five children.  At the time, I didn’t know families that big existed anymore! I’m excited to share her encouraging words with you.  Thanks, Christina!

***

Grace_wordleI purposely have not read the other blog entries because I didn’t want to put expectations on myself for what this needs to be. I also hoped that if I repeat what anyone else has said it will be from God, an exclamation point of sorts. I’m looking forward to catching up on the previous entries!

This kind of sums up “Motherhood” for me: expectations.

Expectations: what are mine of myself, my husband’s expectations of me, my children’s expectations, my church’s, and God’s expectations of me? That’s heavy.

I have 5 children. The oldest is 23 and the youngest just had her 11th birthday. My oldest, Jessica, and youngest, Julia, are girls. There are three boys in between – Jonathon, Joshua and Josiah. I love the newborn – 2 years stage. I had birth and breastfeeding down pat. There may be people who adopt 5 kids at once or in a short period of time or the few families on TV that have multiples. I can’t imagine going from no children to 5 or having one and then birthing 4 at once making an automatic family of 5. Phew! In my average case, it was one at a time. Managing those ages and stages have to be lived one day at a time but also lived with the future in mind.

My struggle with expectations has brought me to a place of casting aside all others and asking God, “What do YOU expect?” His reply is what we all long for: “Love me.” Encapsulated in that is also “Let me love you and love others through you.” Don’t you love HUGS? Maybe there are the few that have difficulties with touch and resist the intimacy of a hug, but overall I think we generally love HUGS. What I like most about it is that when you give one, you almost always get one back.  As I focus on being aware of His Presence throughout my day, loving God and receiving His love for me, then loving my family and “doing” all the mom-things for them become an expression of love and not just an expectation of duty to perform.

My expectations of myself, by the way, are usually an unrealistic conglomeration of all the ‘best mom’ attributes of all my friends, acquaintances and maybe even TV moms, Martha Stewart and Food Network stars, all wrapped up into what I think is who I should be. As I surrender that and focus on Jesus and pleasing Him, I find that I can navigate around all the other expectations.

“Focus” is the word for me this year. Haphazard living doesn’t yield a fruitful life. In the stages of nursing babies and toddlers, I had to have structure but bend with the unexpected. During the school years, structure is forced upon me and there is a rhythm to the weeks. With a large family, I have had years with kids in 3 different schools. “Life happens” and in the chaos, I have often lived by the urgent with my only focus on survival. However, I can look back and know that through it all, I have and continue to live with a focus – pleasing God. And He smiles on me and on you, too.

To wrap it up, in this newest stage of parenting (letting children grow up and go away), there is one HUGE thing I learned: “new level, new lie” or some say “new level, new devil”. What do I mean? Well when my oldest was graduating high school, I thought “I’ve finally learned how to do this thing called life.” I was confident in my relationship with God and aware of the destructiveness of the enemy of our souls. What took me by surprise was that the enemy came from a different angle, found a weak spot and took on a new lie. When my oldest got engaged, I began to think, “She doesn’t need me anymore. Her husband’s family is better for her than we are.” I started to agree with those and other negative thoughts and for 3 weeks or so I was being tormented.

Then it hit me, “THESE WERE LIES FROM THE PIT”.

It was like a veil was removed and I saw where these thoughts we coming from. I immediately repented and began to cut off the plans and schemes of the enemy in prayer.  God is faithful and my relationship with my daughter is close and strong.

I could have filled this blog with scriptures and believe me, I have many favorites. I love this definition of the GRACE of God – His ability to do in and through me what I could never do in my own strength. That’s Motherhood.

Christina Dzindzio (aka Mom, Chrissy, Sis, Mrs. D, pastor’s wife)
I’m married to a man of God – Timothy Dzindzio. We both graduated from Zion Bible Institute in 1987 and have been married 26 years.  Our journey: we have served as youth pastors for over a decade, Senior Pastors in Pelham Bay, Bronx, NY for 7 years, Master’s Commission director in NJ, lived in Louisiana for 3 years and currently pastoring in Rhode Island. 

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Celebrate Motherhood: A Guest Post from Aileen Torres

I apologize for the delay in getting posts out to you.  It’s been a hard month, and while I would love to catch you up on all that has been going on in my life I’m pushing forward with our scheduled posts for this month.  May’s not over, after all!

Today’s guest post comes from one of my best friends, Aileen Torres.  Aileen was the one mother I approached that I did not have “niche” for.  I just knew I wanted her to share, because whatever she wrote would be insightful.  I am humbled by her honestly and transparency in what she submitted. Motherhood is not always rainbows and butterflies (Thank you, Maroon 5 for that song lyric.) and it’s important that we share our truths with one another–even the hard and brutal ones.

Thank you for sharing, A.  You are a gem in my life.

***

womanToday [the day this was written] happens to be my mother’s birthday. For some this will be a mad dash to the phone to be the first to wish mom an exceptional day, but not so for me. It’s not because my mom is deceased. It is because, in many ways, she never really lived. Let me explain.

My mother is a deeply broken woman and because of it my two sisters and I have struggled to connect with her. To clarify, my hesitance is not due to anger or bitterness. I honestly do not know her. I even question if she knows herself. This makes me deeply sad.

Without going into all the sordid details, my mother suffered horrific abuse. Yes, think of the worst case scenario and I promise you she fits it. She was damaged and in many ways still is. Don’t get me wrong, she kept house, we were clean and the lady can cook her tail off, but she was not emotionally available to us. Her trauma caused her to never let us in and we felt it. Boy did we feel it.

In fact it took a group confessional of sorts for us three sisters to realize that we struggle to not only connect with our mother but consequently to also connect with our daughters. Initially I felt relieved that I wasn’t alone but shortly thereafter I felt a crushing pain. My truth was validated and it hurt. Boy did it hurt.

I honestly love my daughters and I am better for having them in my life on so many levels. There is nothing I would not do for them. However, it would be a lot easier for me to shield them from a bullet than to sit down and have a face to face conversation with them. Like my mom, and many families of abuse, abuse is cyclical and I too was a victim. Something in me died as well. If there is anything my mother and I connect with it is this horrible and unspoken commonality.

There are so many areas of my life where God has acted supremely. I have been delivered and set free from so many strongholds many of which were shattered the day I called upon the name of the Lord. However, because of my mom’s brokenness coupled with my brokenness, what should be organic and natural is more of a daily intentional, cognitive, effort to go before the throne of grace and ask my Father to enable me to love my girls the way He wants me to love them and according to their individual needs and unique design. And to be honest, I’m OK with that. If going before God every day is what is required, then going before God every day is what it will be.

Two things I know. I love my mom and wish it could be so much more. I love my girls and trust God that it will be so much more.

I know I was asked to write an encouraging post to all the moms out there and although my words may seem a little heavy to some there may be a few out there who can identify with what I write and find great comfort in my journey.

One of the most liberating feelings is to be truthful and honest about what you feel. Truth is the basis of our faith and the beauty in all this is that my ugly truth combined with His truth makes for an exceptional and exhilarating journey with Him and with others.

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