Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy 5th birthday, Owen!

Watching the balloons fly up and away yesterday. It was so special to see those little girls' faces as they watched the balloons soar up into the sky. It was pure joy for them. And so sweet for us to experience their joy with them. 

This week we have felt so loved. Last week, my friend here in STL asked me if we would want to celebrate Owen's birthday alone or with friends, because she would love to celebrate him with us. It was like a fresh cool breeze on a stifling day. I felt immediate relief about what this week might be like. And so a birthday party was planned. A balloon release, Mexican food (my favorite thing to eat when I was pregnant with Owen) and homemade cupcakes. Here is her blog on Owen's birthday celebration.
Another good friend wrote about Owen on her blog too, and brought tears to my eyes.

I think choosing to celebrate his birthday with our friends made the day much more peaceful and joyful than it could have been with the three of us. Sometimes we get stuck. And sometimes it takes others to pull you out of your stuck-ness.

It was also so special for Hannah Mae to have her friends with her, talking about her brother and celebrating him like the real person that he is. I know it's hard for her 2 year old mind to understand what has happened and why she has a brother she can't see. We're so thankful for how yesterday turned out to be a wild and crazy fun day. There were four little girls (not counting HM) celebrating Owen yesterday and as one of my friends said, "Owen would have had a lot of girlfriends!" That made me smile.

One of the little girls (who is turning five next month) who was celebrating with us asked her mom why babies sometimes died. And oh, with tears in both of our eyes... she said it made her so sad. And then she told her mom how many friends named Owen she had... one in the neighborhood, one at school and one in Heaven. It is so hard and sweet to see the kids think through some of these eternal things.

I went to bed last night exhausted. It has been a long, hard week. And a part of me feels such relief that it is over. There are so many memories, so many rememberings that just break my heart and I'm thankful we made it through the week. And that we were able to celebrate our son for the joy and the precious little guy that he is.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gray grief and grace

This whole week has been gray. When I checked the weather channel this past weekend, they were predicting sunny skies for the week. But instead of blue skies and sun-shiny days, this week has been cloudy, gray and sunless. And it fits.

There's not much more I can say about this week, about Owen, about missing him that I haven't already said in four years of blogging here.

Well, to be honest... I can think of one part of grieving that I've never explored, and it's not easy to write. Nor is it very pretty.

If you're reading this and wondering how to love on our family right now, please know how grateful we are that you care. And that you've stuck with us these past five years. We haven't always been the easiest people to love, and I, especially, haven't been the easiest person to approach.

This next part is hard to write, but I feel I have to write it...

Please know that grief changes a person, whether we like it or not. It peels back the layers of innocence much more quickly than time or age can. I've heard it said that you want to become a better person, not a bitter person because of what you go through in life. Well, I've been both. Mostly though, I've been bitter. I hid from friends who didn't seem to understand, and I felt anger and bitterness towards people who didn't seem to have any struggles. I carried the torch of unfairness high for all to see, and I intentionally shut people out of my life because they would not or could not grieve with me.

No matter how much I wanted NOT to feel what I was feeling, the truth is that I couldn't change my heart. I couldn't let go of the weight of how I felt my life was unfair... and not only that but I couldn't let go of the unfairness of people asking me to be someone I wasn't, and to feel things that I couldn't.

It was only the Holy Spirit who could change my heart, who could show me grace in the way I longed to experience. It was grace that changed my heart...
And grace that continues to add balm to my weary soul; my soul that feels misunderstood, judged and sometimes still struggles with bitterness.

Please know, especially if you've been around since the beginning, that the Lord has dealt gently with me. But that he has and continues to sanctify this broken girl. I couldn't change the bitterness deep in my heart, but he could. I couldn't make anyone understand exactly how I felt the day my son was born into this world already dead and gone, but thankfully God has been graciously giving me peace that even if I feel misunderstood until the day I die, that somehow it is okay. Somehow being understood doesn't equal love. And sometimes you can grieve differently but still love each other in our different journeys through this life.

If you've stuck around this long, please know how much that means to me. And if somewhere along the way, you've turned and walked away, please know how much you still mean to me. Because if Owen's death has taught me anything, it's that the brokenness of this world knows no boundaries and that grace still abounds all the more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6

Today is not my favorite day (understatement). The anniversary of the day I went into my doctor's office for reassurance and instead found out our baby, our son was dead. 
No heartbeat; only the fuzzy scratchy sound of the doppler trying in vain to find his beating heart. To this day I hate the sound of the doppler. 

A few years ago when I wrote his story out in detail, this is what I wrote about this day. This terrible, horrible day.

Driving home, I spoke to him through tears. Sobs choking the words. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I...your son. I am...our baby shouldn't be... shouldn't be the first person you lose."

We sat on the sofa all afternoon. Neither of us moving. For hours, we sat alone. Together. His arms around me, my arms around my huge stomach, our son dead. When people started arriving, I remember whispering to him, "I don't want his death to turn anyone away from God. I'm not angry. I'm not angry. I don't want anyone to be angry."

I wasn't lying. There was no anger in my heart. No anger in my words. Devastation slumped my shoulders, sorrow gripped my heart, pain poured down my face; I was in shock.
The anger would come later. And come it did.

Our pastor came that night to comfort us. To sit with us and cry and pray. I told him I didn't want Owen's death to turn our family and friends away from God. I was clinging to Him. Where else could we go? My strong father beat his head against the door frame in misery and pain. I felt so hopeless, so helpless. My belly, the little boy inside of me already gone in spirit, still protruding prominently in the midst of us...and all I could do was cry out to the Lord.

The next day, we packed to go to the hospital. To see our son, face to face. To cement the reality already tightening in my chest.
I collapsed on our bed, Owen's crib in arm's reach, and cried. My mom held me while our tears flowed freely. I was afraid of labor. Afraid of going to the hospital, of leaving the hospital without my son. I didn't want the after. I didn't want to think about coming home to our empty apartment. To our empty life, a life without our son.

There was nothing else to be done, but the inevitable. He needed to come. We needed to see him face to face.
We needed to hold his tiny body and say goodbye.

Friday, November 2, 2012


As the days inch closer and closer to Owen's Heaven day (next Monday) and his 5th birthday (next Thursday), stillbirth is on my mind even more than usual. I feel such a weight of grief and sadness that is so palpable but so hard to verbalize. If you ask me how I'm doing, I very well may cry and have no words to offer. But that's just how it is sometimes (and please do still ask).

I wrote the words below about a year and a half ago. It was in response to a sermon I heard almost four years ago that hurt on a deep deep level. I couldn't hear what my pastor was saying because of the pain the word stillbirth causes me. But it was (is) an important message, and one that God was faithful to let sink in even if it did take six months to hear.

This post has been on my mind lately though it's been over a year and a half since I wrote it.

After sitting through (well, almost all the way through) the sermon, I still had no idea what our pastor was trying to say and when I wrote that post, my stomach was still in knots. The following fall, Chris led a small group and chose 1 Peter as the book we would delve into and discuss. Guess what is in this particular book?
Yes, birth. Again.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1: 3-5

I asked Chris what passage our pastor used for his sermon, and neither of us can remember, but it may very well be that he used this particular passage too. Chris said he turned 'off' just like I did when the word stillbirth came our of our pastor's mouth.

But I can say with great certainty that I now understand what our pastor was trying to say (and maybe everyone else in the church got the meaning right away, but for Chris and I, we had such a strong emotional and physical reaction to the symbolism that it was extremely hard to listen).

It clicked that Wednesday night at small group. I remember the feeling I had when I finally understood the infamous birth sermon. It was such sweet relief.

Chris asked us why it's so important to be born again and why that language is being used in 1 Peter. Now, I'm not usually a big talker during bible study discussions, believe it or not. I'm not a big talker in general, unless it's one on one or if I'm really comfortable with the group of people. But I couldn't not say anything. I don't remember the exact words I used, but I remember recounting how I felt when our pastor did the sermon on birth and stillbirth. Then the tears welled up in my eyes and I said (not verbatim) it's so important because though we don't see it or realize it, we're all stillborn. Spiritually speaking, we have been born into death and we need a re-birth, a live birth into life.

Stillbirth, in a spiritual sense, is just as heartbreaking (and greatly even more so because it is an eternal death) as the stillbirth we've experienced with our Owen. Birth into death is not how it's supposed to be. We were made to live, to be born living and breathing. Faith in Jesus gives us the spiritual re-birth that we all desperately need. And when we are born again, living and breathing, we have the great living hope of Jesus who was resurrected from the dead. God gives us salvation from this broken world through him.

We have such great hope.

And even stillbirth, a disgusting and vile abomination, can be used to point us to that great hope. Months and months later, I'm thankful to the Lord for the infamous sermon that caused so much hurt and sadness. I'm thankful for redemption.