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

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Five.

I find myself feeling the need to come on here and write when I’m feeling a bit…melancholy.  I suppose that’s the word.  I thought about that this morning; how this blog is not a reflection then of how I am in “real” life–the girl with a constant smile on her face.  I’ve noticed the tone around these parts has been a bit serious and that may be the season I am in.  But this will be the last post of that sort, at least for a short while.

I am so excited for the month of May and what I’ll be sharing on this blog.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for a post where I will explain!  For now though…

Today’s been a bit rough.  May 1 is a bit rougher as I explained in this post last year.  But it all started on April 30 and that’s where my mind has been all day.

Five years ago I experienced a miscarriage.  I’ve processed the event enough to know it is not the worst thing in the world that can possibly happen to a person, and, yet, it hurts.  You know?  This date is etched in my mind and I woke up remembering that five years ago it was a normal morning.  By mid-afternoon, I knew my world was changing.

I’ve done a lot of reading on miscarriages since that time and I appreciate each and every word I have read from other women that have gone through it.  You don’t wish that pain on anyone and yet you are comforted to know you are not alone.  The thing about miscarriage is that it is forgotten by everyone, pretty much…except you.  No one would know the grief I carry in my heart today unless I told them.  No one asks.  No one follows up.  No one brings meals.

And I’m not putting that responsibility on anyone.  Again, there is SO much else happening to people who need help, and rightly so that they should be the ones to receive the calls and cards and meals.  But the heaviness is there.  And to not express it would not be true to who I am.

I think I don’t share so much of the “happy” times on here because I see how easy it is for people to share those parts of their lives.  But I think you learn the most when people share their pains and trials.  The nitty-gritty is what propels me to seek after God.  It feels real.  I hope that when I write, people do not see it as something depressing.  Rather I hope the right person is reading and it is comforting to them to know they are not alone in whatever struggle it is they are going through.  Whether it’s a lost baby or anything else.

I am hopeful for what May will bring though.  I trust it will be a month of encouragement and finding joy in our callings.

But for today, as the rain drenches New York City, I allow the weight to bear down.

Five years have gone by quickly.  Thirteen–the number of years my hubby and I have been together as of tomorrow–even faster.

And I am grateful for all the tiny moments, good and bad, that have added up to this beautiful life I get to experience.

beautiful life{via}

One date can pack a whole lotta punch.

May 1.

It’s a loaded date around these parts.

And by “these parts,” I mean mainly in my head.  And my heart.

As much as I share on social media (and I’m refraining a lot nowadays, trust me), I’m not the type to lament a “bad morning” or the like.  Truth is, I recognize how blessed I am and how even my minor “trials” pale in comparison to the sadness so many other people wake up to in this world daily.  No, I try not to complain.

Except when I post about neighbors who like to do the deed at 1:30 in the morning.  Or 4:30.  You know, it’s cool.

But I think by posting that kind of stuff got people praying, ’cause it’s been awhile since their passions have awoken me.  Hallelu.

But I digress.

It was a rough morning.  It was a rough night last night.  I could feel all my roughness come out of my poor son.  He felt the rough.  I couldn’t place my finger on my out-of-control emotions last night that had been so well contained for many months now.  It clicked this morning.

Roughness that caused my son to enter his school and come running out screaming, Mom! Mom! as I drove away and turned the corner at which point another mother grabbed him to stop him from running into the street.

Are you kidding me!?

He had left a project in my car.  He knew what he had done was very wrong (running out of the school without telling anyone once he had entered the premises).  And he collapsed under the weight of a lot of pressure he felt from the roughness of long nights and busy days ahead.

But still.  Running down the block!?  What was he thinking? 🙂

But I digress again.

***

May 1 was the day hubby and I started dating.  For the most part, it’s a good thing.  What makes it hard is being where we are now, it’s hard to look back on those days fondly.  Our relationship was so sinful; being heathens isn’t even a strong enough word to describe how we were and the things we did.  And something I try to shield myself from admitting is part of that truth–I was still dating another person when hubbyand I made it official.  In my heart it was over with that guy.  But that argument wouldn’t hold up in court, I’m sure.

See?  So wicked.  Not caring about anyone but myself.

I love seeing how far we’ve come.  God took something that was “bad” and turned into something beautiful.  Not perfect, a lot of times not even good as we fall and bend and make mistakes.  But beautiful.  We love and serve the Lord together.  We are raising a child to love the Lord we love.  It’s hard, but always beautiful.

656_41259772186_5631_nApril 7, 2001.  The moment we met.  How many couples can say they have documentation of that?  Pretty cool. 🙂

***

Four years ago, May 1 was the day I miscarried.  Or had an ectopic pregnancy.  Adding to the hurt was that it wasn’t clear which it was, which for some reason made me all the more upset.  Like I did not have a clear answer as to what went wrong.  All I know is I was left broken over a life I only got to “feel” for a couple of weeks.

It technically began to happen on April 30.  But we were in the hospital until the early dawn of May 1 and being a significant date in our history, it’s the one I’ve attached to this event.  May 1 used to hold more value in my eyes than even our marriage date (for personal reasons, for now).  I knew that was never how it should have been, but it was and when this happened it felt like any happiness I could possibly feel with hubby was taken away.  All the important “dates” were marred and I grew bitter.

It’s hard to grieve a miscarriage (It’s just easier to refer to it as such even though it’s not certain that’s what I had.) because I know women have gone through so much worse.  I also know that I have a happy and healthy child and so many women could only wish to have that one.  But I still need to acknowledge the date for my own healing.  As an advocate for pro-life choices, my beliefs are life begins at conception.  Therefore, even though that life never saw this side of heaven, it’s a life still to be celebrated and cherished.  I think often a the three-year-old I “should” have had by now.  I imagine how life would have changed and envision what it would like like now and would feel like for Goob to have a little brother or sister.  Once upon a time, I dwelled on these things to a point where I grew resentful and became angry with God.  Now, they are fleeting thoughts and I am grateful that through this trial, God allowed me to only grow closer to Him.  With the exception of this date and perhaps the baby’s due date, I can look back at the year with only fond memories.  It’s the year we decided to buy our own home.  It’s the year I got to take my husband and son to meet my family in a country I adore.  For those things, I am forever grateful for 2009.  It all happened exactly as it was supposed to.  I couldn’t see that then.  I cherish that notion now.

5689_104489177186_8002927_n (1)February 17, 2009. Special memories for special reasons.

***

On, May 1, 2011, one of Christofer’s main teachers passed away unexpectedly.  I’ll never forget that day.

Hubby and I have always tried to “recognize” May 1 regardless of the circumstances surrounding our beginning.  It was the day that started what we are now, and it’s okay to tip our hats to it once a year in acknowledgement.  For that special “ten year dating anniversary,” honey went all out.  We went to see Catch Me If You Can on Broadway and were supposed to follow that up with an amazing dinner at a Cuban restaurant on the same block.

Except on the way there, I began getting text after text about Mrs. Edwards being rushed to the  hospital and being in poor shape.  The texts flew and as the hours passed, the prognosis looked grim.

Oh, the irony of sitting in a comedic show trying to enjoy something your poor husband spent a lot of money on while checking your phone every two minutes.  By the time the show ended, I asked hubby if he would mind skipping the meal.  I knew I would not enjoy it and would feel horrible if I did not get to the hospital to see her.

I never made it.  Just a few stops short of our home on the LIRR I received the dreaded text that Mrs. Edwards passed away.

I wailed.

I cried for her children now without an earthly mother.  I cried for her husband.  I cried for her students who would face Monday and the rest of the year without her.  I cried because I would not have my talking buddy in the morning.

It was the first time as a Christian that I lost a Christian friend and felt the weight of it.

I don’t count this as a positive at all, for I’d give anything for Mrs. Edwards to still be with us today, but because of her the blog title “A Life Well Done” was born.  One consistent theme you heard woven in the stories people spoke of her was when she went to heaven God most certainly would have said to her, Well done good and faith servant. Mrs. Edwards had a servant’s heart.  She was kind and a motherly figure to her students.  You could feel her loving you through her words and warm embraces.  She was a mama bear for sure, but more importantly she was a Godly woman I aspire to be and I wanted to live the life she did.  One that was well done.

I miss her still.

243100_10150177167642187_5468956_o

***

It was last year or the year before, I can’t remember, that I poured my heart out into a couple of blog posts that detailed some of these experiences.  They got deleted, ugh.  The emotion was raw and even though I was very upset, they served their purpose.  Once I released those emotions into the open, I could move on.

So here I am, trying on another May 1 to release.  To share.  To let you know that whatever dates you have that don’t conjure those nice warm fuzzy feeling we WANT To feel–

You will heal.

We have a Heavenly Father who sees our hurts and a Savior who can very well sympathize.  When I call out to Him, it doesn’t mean those emotions go away all at once.  But I begin to heal.  I begin to look past my circumstances and open my eyes to what I DO have.  I learn to be grateful.  I look to the cross.  I remain grateful and humbled of the gospel and what it means in my life.

And if God took EVERYTHING away, that would be okay.  Because I would have Him.

I don’t need “dates.”  I don’t need a baby.  I don’t need Mrs. Edwards.

I like those things.  I love those things.

But I need HIM.

And while May 1 may always be rough, I’m learning to see the beauty in the day.

I look ahead.

Knowing that the time is fast approaching when only good days will come.

When I’m worshiping my King.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

~Psalm 23:4 ESV

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust,
O Lord, from my youth.
~Psalm 71:5 ESV

Let your steadfast love comfort me according
to your promise to your servant.
~Psalm 119:76 ESV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

And so many more.

Be comforted today, friends.

Be brave.  Share your stories.

Let’s help one another get through these days, shall we?

With lots of love,
Lis.