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.

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.

*Picture {via}

The checkup.

I’ve written about a visit to an OB/GYN’s office before on a blog that, sadly, was mistakingly deleted.  I’ll go ahead an assume you’re okay with that.

But here we are again.  And, if you one of my male friends, feel free to look away now.

Yesterday I went for my “annual” checkup along with a mirage of other blood work just to see where I am with my health.

I put annual in quotations because it had been four years since I went to an OB/GYN.

Why?  Because I was embarrassed about my weight.

My former OB/GYN (and only former because we moved) was kind but always made remarks (not nasty, just observational) about my weight.  Not that he didn’t have a right to!  It just made me uncomfortable and sad.

Since I left the teaching profession and, thus, no longer needed an annual physical I have been able to avoid stepping on a scale at a doctor’s office.  Because, of course, it’s so much easier to pretend our problems do not exist.

I’m in a place now of taking control of my health (and not giving way to excuses) and so the appointment was set.

It’s funny what God will choose to use as teachable moments.  As I’m getting ready for the appointment yesterday morning, it dawned on me how the sin in my life relates to my weight.

It’s easy to try to ignore and pretend that everything is fine.  The fact remains though, the problem is still there.  And it’s hurting me.  In fact, it could kill me.

Much like avoiding doctors who I knew would tell me a truth (One I already know, mind you!), I avoid telling my brothers and sisters in Chris of sin issues in my life. I avoid confessing it to God–a truth HE knows.

I do not have to step on a scale to know there is a problem.  And I act like that toward sin–if I don’t say it out loud; if I don’t think about it…it does not mean God doesn’t know.  Because, duh, he does.

It does not even have to be about sin.  Perhaps it’s an emotional struggle or sadness or a difficult choice that needs to be made.  The choice not to talk about it in order to not have to face being told what to do or have a wrong way of thinking pointed out is no different that the avoidance of stepping on a scale because I’m afraid of what I will see.

But I no longer want to be afraid.  I want to step fully into the promises that I have been told.

And so I stepped on a scale yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at how far I have come since my heaviest weight.  It felt good to see that lifestyle changes in regards to food and exercise have been, albeit slowly, paying off.

…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. ~1 Timothy 4:8 ESV

While it is a great thing to remember my body is a temple that houses the Holy Spirit and therefore knowing what I put into it is important, it will never be more important than my spiritual growth. Physical exercise, the number that appears on a scale, and the inches I lose will never outweigh the importance of spiritual discipline and striving for a pure heart.  I can exercise my brains out, but if I’m not putting even more time into reading my Word and building on my relationship with Christ it will all be for naught.  After all, what will matter more when I stand before Him?

Yes, physical checkups are of great importance, but the spiritual checkups of my heart hold far greater–eternal–value.

I can look at the past decade and see the “weight I’ve lost” spiritually.  It is not a pride I take in myself, because I know I did not do it.  It is all of grace; I am such a different person than I was.

But I see the areas that still need work and a heart that has so much further to go.

I will no longer be afraid of physical checkups because the scale does not define me.

I will no longer be afraid to share my spiritual shortcomings because those failures do not define me either.

He does.

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The Waiting Game

I am currently reading an amazing book, Glimpses of Grace, in my church’s ladies Bible study.  One of the overall premises of the book is to “encourage [woman] to see the reality of God’s grace in all of life, especially those areas that often appear to be boring and unimportant.” (Quote is from the description of the book on sites where you may purchase it from.)

We spend some time each week looking at our lives and sharing how things that could, and usually do, bother us are opportunities for us to see grace.  Grace in what God has given us.  To extend grace toward others.  Thankfulness for all we have been given.

And so it was on Tuesday–right before the book study, mind you–that I found myself waiting in a doctor’s office.  Just a few weeks before, I had told someone how [insert my full name] waits for no doctor, but I may have over-exaggerrated.  I showed up early (because sometimes you’re blessed enough to be seen before your time).  I knew I would be late as it was, but I was so surprised to get an appointment so quickly having only called the day before that I grabbed it.

But 3:30 came and went.  Then 3:40.  By 3:50, I did go to the receptionist to see where I was in this dreadful process, and I was next.

By 4, I was apologizing to my sweet, patient boy who was waiting alongside me.  He enjoys HIS Bible class as much as I enjoy mine and hates to be late.

4:05.  I made a pact.  If they did not call me  by 4:10 we’d leave, as it was better to go for an hour to our classes rather than miss it completely.  I made it to 4:08.  I knew they would take me to the examination room and I’d probably wait another 1/2 hour for the doctor.  (I’ve worked for them.  I know.)  I knew I could not handle it.  Calmly, I walked back up to the reception.  Smiled.  Stated I needed to be somewhere and could I please get my co-pay back as I would not be staying any longer for the appointment.

Away we went.  And made it to our classes by 4:30 as had been my plan all along.

So why am I sharing this story and what does it have to do with a book that I’m reading?

It’s in moments like those that God’s grace in my life is evident to me.  How far I have come; how differently I react than the person I used to be.

Old me would have been angry and terse and making SOMEONE feel bad, because how dare do you allow me to wait?  My time is super valuable after all, right?  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

It’s in moments like that I can finally practice recall.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  ~James 1:19-20, ESV

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love,   ~1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23, ESV

The words bound on my heart finally see the light of day in my ability to practice what I so often preach to the little human sitting beside me.  Because it’s so often easier said and memorized and learned than done.

I’m practicing patience; remembering that not everything has to or will happen the way that I want them to.  There is no one sitting in that office out to get me.  I can think it’s wrong what the general human population goes through in doctor office waiting rooms, but it doesn’t give me good reason to react in a way that doesn’t glorify God.

He was so patient with me.  So patient.

And on the beautiful flip side.  I see the additional moments of grace created by sitting in a waiting room:

*I have no choice but to rest. I’m wearing a monitor that counts my steps and I can see by the number that appears on my little screen just how much and how hard I worked that day.  Had I gone straight home from work and picking up little man from school, I would have only continued to work; to find something to do.  My mind and my hands don’t know rest when it isn’t forced upon me.  I got to sit.  I got to breathe.  There was no task, no errand, for me to do.

*I got to finish the chapters I needed to read for the class I was heading too.  The week flies by and the desire to read ahead of the day of class just doesn’t happen.  The margin I create on my days “off” fell by the wayside and there I was about to enter the class without being prepared.  I read in peace.  And it was good for my soul.

*I watched the first few minutes of Dr. Oz.  I love that show.  And my little man loves to watch it with me.  We chatted.  I spent time with my littlest guy.  And that is always good for my soul.

Above all, I hope I demonstrated to him how to properly react when things don’t happen the way you expect and people, like doctor’s, fail you.

1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss oftemper, irritation, or the like.
2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: towork with patience.

The ability to exude or feel patience in my now now now mentality is a slow process; one that I must practice; one that must become habit.  A habit that I fail at often in my hurried-can’t-be-bothered-life.

But a quality that I see glimpses of grace of every so often.

It will never be fun for others to dictate your time.  To let it go when someone cuts you off. To see the person in front of you in the supermarket line using 1,001 coupons when that’s the only lane open.

But I clothe myself in what honors Him.

God is patient with me daily.  And I am so glad He is.
patience
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