Monday, November 24, 2014

Story

I was thankful to share this at our church recently, and I'm so thankful to God for making beauty from ashes.


My husband, Chris and I have been married for almost ten years. We were married fairly young- he was 20, and I was 22. I actually bought his beer on our honeymoon. We were young and in love, and believed that love was truly all we needed to make it.

But it started on our honeymoon- the fighting, the hurt, the unmet expectations, and letting each other down. We struggled. We loved each other a lot, but we didn't know how to love each other. Marriage was not the fairy tale we imagined it would be and the life we had planned and dreamed would not be the life we lived.


About two years after we were married, I was shocked to discover I was pregnant. Once the shock wore off, we were truly ecstatic to be having a baby. Though Chris had just graduated from college and our plans for the future were decidedly undecided, the little boy we named Owen soon became our joy and we made new dreams.


Early one morning, a month before my due date, I found myself worrying about Owen's movements. When was the last time I felt him move? Later that afternoon at the doctor's office, an ultrasound confirmed our worst fears. Owen did not have a heartbeat. He was gone. In a flash, all our dreams, our world came crashing down.


I remember our pastor coming to our little apartment and sitting across from me, my hands still holding my pregnant belly, and I told him "I'm not angry at God. I'm not angry". And I wasn't. My heart was broken and I was in shock. Two days later I delivered our only son stillborn.


Slowly the shock wore off... Slowly the reality of what had happened hit me... And I was angry. Irate. I felt cursed. Betrayed for daring to hope- for wanting something so badly. I felt so hopeless. 
To be honest, the next year is a blur of grief. We tried again to have a baby, and twice we miscarried. It was after our third baby died that I broke. My heart, so hard and angry at God, was transformed.

One night about a year after Owen died, Chris and I were lying in bed in the dark, too quiet of our apartment and I broke down. I begged him to tell me that God had not abandoned me, that he had not forsaken me. I still could not read my bible or pray, so Chris started to tell me what we call true and beautiful things before I fell asleep each night. 
"The Lord is your keeper" 
"He is before all things and in Him all things hold together" 
"Blessed be The Lord who daily bears us up. God is our salvation"

My story of hope is not that my husband and I don't fight anymore, because we do.


It is not that I don't have bad days full of anxiety and sorrow, because I do.


My story of hope is not the two beautiful girls we have running around our house, though they fill our hearts with joy... and it is not the beautiful baby boy who was born seven years after his big brother.

My story of hope is that God has not forsaken me.


When I was unable to get out of bed after Owen died, when I railed at God and stopped going to church for almost a year, and had all but given up... The Lord held onto me. He would not let go.

My story of hope is that I have hope. Hope that God will never abandon us; he is with us right now by His Spirit and Jesus is going to come again and make all the sad, broken things untrue.

I'll end with one of my favorite true and beautiful things from Psalm 121- "I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from The Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper."

Friday, November 14, 2014

Abba

I was too afraid to ask for this. 
But He heard my heart anyways. 



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sweet baby Cooper

Our Cooper is here!



Born last Tuesday night at 36 weeks 3 days. He was 5lbs 5oz and cried right away. And then Chris and I cried and cried. It was one of those moments I'll never forget. He is doing really well, and we both came home from the hospital late Friday night.



Hannah Mae and Ruby love him so much. HM wants to be with him all the time and tells him what a cute baby he is everytime she talks to him. She leaned against my shoulder this morning as I was nursing him and sighed "I'm so glad Cooper is here." Ruby pats him everytime she walks by (she is a seriously busy little girl) and says "Hi, baby!"


There is so much to say about all that happened last week, but the short story is that God knew. He was ever present and He knew exactly all the details, and "he is before all things and in him all things hold together".


I had a regularly scheduled doctors appointment to check his umbilical cord flow by ultrasound
followed by a NST (I did this twice a week) last Tuesday. He didn't pass either test. The pressure of blood flow in his cord had changed for the worse and he had a non reactive stress test.
The doctor came in, smiled a little and sighed. She asked me when I had eaten last. I told her lunch and asked why? She said, "Because were going need to deliver him today. His dopplers are changing and he needs to come out." I immediately started bawling... much like when this happened with Hannah except I was much more relieved this time as I had expected from the beginning of my pregnancy that we would face this situation again.

This entire pregnancy I've been waiting to hear that he was struggling, not growing and I have been tense and stressed for months, especially as we neared and then surpassed the time gestationaly that Hannah Mae was born and then the gestation that Owen died. 36 weeks 3 days... the longest I've ever been pregnant. Also, at 5lbs 5oz, he's the biggest baby I've had. Owen and Hannah were both 4lbs.
I've been on edge wondering and hoping and praying that if he started to struggle like Hannah did, that the doctors would catch it. That he would be born before what happened to Owen could even have the chance of happening again. God knew.


And so we were sent straight to the hospital. I asked about getting a bag from home, and the doctor shook her head no and said, "Just go straight there." And so we did. Chris hadn't been to a single doctors appointment in months and months but last Tuesday he was able to come. God knew.


Earlier that day, I was home alone with the girls and had a physical and emotional breakdown. I laid down on the girls bedroom floor and cried out. "I can't do this any longer."
A couple of hours later, my mom called and asked if I was ready for her to come and help out (I had been having really bad nerve pain and it was really painful to walk around). I broke down crying again, answered yes, and then asked her when she was coming. She paused and then said, "I'm about an hour away." God knew.

She got to our place at about 2pm, and at 4pm Chris and I headed out to the doctors appointment with the girls happy and safe at home. God knew.


We went to bed that night holding our precious Cooper in our arms.



It is amazing... so amazing to look at the last week, to see God's hand so clearly. God knew... and though I had such weak faith, such fear and worry and doubt, God was still so very faithful and abundantly generous in mercy and grace to us.


We are so thankful. Praise The Lord for this sweet little boy, who reminds us so very much of our first little boy... who is never far from our thoughts. We are so grateful for all of our children...
the ones in our arms and the ones just beyond reach.




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On the subject of his birthday

The windows of our third story apartment have been let open, letting the sweet cool smell of fall push in.
It's that time of year again.

The leaves change color... deep reds, oranges, and yellows swirl to the ground below, and the landscape around us changes. The landscape around our home, our new apartment, is changing too. In February, we decided to downsize our living situation and move into a downtown apartment in our small college town. It has always been a pipe dream of ours to live in an urban setting, forgo our car and be right in the middle of things. And so we downsized.
And then the week after we signed our lease, we had a shock in the form of a positive pregnancy test.

But we love our new home. It is small and a little cramped but overall, we are enjoying this new lifestyle. We have downsized, but we're on the verge of upsizing of our family.


For the past six years, Fall has been our season of grief. Our Owen season. The cool breeze that stirs the fallen leaves stirs my heart too... to remember, to linger, to grieve, to sit with my son's memory and just be. Just be his mommy, his mommy who misses and loves him.

We are coming up on his seventh birthday this November. Less than eight weeks to be exact. But this year, I am struggling with the reality that soon I will have another sons's birthday.

I am less than nine weeks from my due date.

Just one week- that is all that separates Owen's birthday and Cooper's due date.


Today, I had an honest discussion with one of my doctors about their birthdays. I don't want Cooper to be born near or on one of Owen's days. To be very honest, I want Cooper born in October, preferably at 37 weeks. I want him out safely before something happens. I don't have the best track record during the third trimester.

Owen was stillborn at 36 weeks, and with Hannah Mae, our goal was to get to 37 weeks and induce (though that did make me extremely nervous). But in the end, she needed to be born early at 35 weeks because she began to show signs of distress. This happening again, with Cooper, is a huge fear of mine. But all my doctors want us to try to get to 39 weeks...which puts Cooper's birthday on Owen's 7th birthday.


On my way home this afternoon, I let the fear come. I rolled down the windows of my car as I drove down the now familiar roads of our new(ish) town. The fear, the stress, the anxiety of this last trimester can be crippling at times, paralyzingly me. As the tears welled up in my eyes, my mind drifted back to our beach vacation a few weeks ago and I imagined myself sitting at the oceans edge. The waves rushing up and pulling back over my feet. Washing me. Over and over and over again.

He who washed us in his blood... let us love and sing and wonder...

I had a moment of peace, and then another, and another. The Lord God has chosen my children's' birthdays... each one of them.
Hannah's and Ruby's unexpected and joyful births.
Owen's silent and sorrow filled birth, his beautiful and sad birth.


I am not naive to think that I won't struggle with this, and have fear and anxiety until I deliver precious Cooper. But The Lord has held us. He has washed us. He has always been faithful.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goodbye, sweet sticky Summer


The last time I was pregnant during the summer was seven years ago. There was a long heat wave in Georgia where the high temperatures stayed above 100 degrees for over two weeks. 
We lived in a one bedroom apartment with no central air. I was twenty-something weeks pregnant with Owen and so so hot and miserable. Chris dragged our mattress into the living room where our little window unit hummed all night, trying to provide some relief while we tried to sleep. 

We went to the beach earlier that summer too. It was the week before my anatomy scan. I was 19 weeks pregnant, and barely showing. Chris broke his shoulder boogie boarding in the rough waves, and I read and napped on the beach, relishing in my last vacation before vacations changed forever. Next year, I would have a little baby to care for, to watch over, to enjoy at the beach. 


This summer, I'm pregnant again. 
We went to the beach. I'm 29 weeks pregnant. I'm hot and miserable. 
And happy and full. I'm showing quite a bit, enough where my great aunt asked several times if we're sure it's not twins. 


We took our two precious daughters with us. One loved the beach, the other not so much. It was as relaxing a week as you can have with a four year old and one year old who never stop moving and exploring, and with one kid who still does not sleep through the night. 


I'm ready. And scared. And unsure and overwhelmed and ready. 
October is just a month away. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Love, or something like it

Some say love is a burning thing, that it makes a fiery ring.
Oh, but I know love as a fading thing
just as fickle as a feather in the stream.
See honey I saw love, you see it came to me
It put its face up to my face so I could see
And then I saw love
disfigure me
into something
I am not
recognizing.


....I will not open myself up this way again.
I will not lay like this for days now upon end... You will not see me fall, you'll see me struggle to stand. I will not open myself up this way again.

...see honey, I am not some broken thing.
I do not lay here in the dark waiting for thee. No, my heart is gold. My feet are light. And I am racing out on the desert plains all night.


Some say love is a burning thing, that it makes a fiery ring.
Oh, but I know love as caging thing
just a killer come to call from some awful dream.*



I am a total nerd for song lyrics. I like a good beat, but really when it comes down to it, I'd much rather listen to a song for what it says than what it sounds like. And this is one of my favorite songs. It is heartbreaking and totally depressing, but it opens up this part of me that knows exactly what it's saying. How many times has 'love' disfigured us? How often has 'love' used and abused and broken us?

But that is not love.

Love is not fickle. It is not a killer from some awful dream. Love does not disfigure. Love does not cage us.

Love frees us. Love transforms us. Love restores us. Love redeems us. And in our brokenness, Love
holds us up in all our weakness, calling us to come out from hiding... to rest in security and safety.


I think it's safe to say that we've all been hurt (and maybe even crushed) by someone who said they loved us. Someone who made the promise that we were safe with them.
And then they left out of nowhere. Or they grew distant and slowly disappeared. One day, we're safe. And the next, we're not.

We can carry this hurt for the rest of our lives, growing more and more resistant to love, more guarded, and less willing to accept offers of love and acceptance. We will not fall for that again. We will struggle to stand on our own. We will run free never stopping, never resting, never safe.
We will not open up ourselves this way again.


But we will lose something so beautiful, so tender, and so freeing. And that is what the Lord God, our loving Father, gave us when he set us in families, in friendships, in community. He gave us His People, His Church. He gave us a picture of His Love here on Earth. A picture that we will sometimes mark up with our sin, our selfishness, our own agendas...

It can be scary sometimes, and it might hurt... it might be uncomfortable, but it is infinitely worth it.

But our hope is not ultimately in other people's love or acceptance... it is in Jesus' love and acceptance. And so, we are freed up to point to the Love of God, free to proclaim the awesomeness of our Jesus. We are freed up by His Love to love other people ... people who may hurt us or leave us...   but we are secure forever in His Love.

And that Love is worth it.


*Phosphorescent



safe in our Daddy's arms

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Psalm 131:2

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Responsible

Both of us have had quite a few nightmares about it. We drive past a pool or see one on tv and she asks me if it's deep. Out of nowhere, she'll look me intently in the eyes and tell me she doesn't want to sink again.

It was traumatizing, for the both of us. I really haven't talked very much about the details because it's too hard. I already get the image of her under the water in my head enough, and I have to physically shake it out again. 

I know how close we came that day, closer than I ever want to come again, to losing her. If I hadn't looked back when I did, if we hadn't been just that week talking about holding her breath under water, if... what if...

**

I started going to therapy to help my PTSD about two years ago. Under the layers of grief and anger, triggers and flashbacks, we discovered the heavy burden I've been carrying of feeling responsible for Owen's death. And how my anxiety and fear, my panic attacks all trace back to the intense feeling of responsibility I feel to keep my children safe and alive. 

What maybe you don't understand about PTSD is that you have no control over it, really. But you can learn ways to cope and live with it.
I think an easy way to explain what it can feel like is to think of the last time you were reminded- out of nowhere- of your most embarrassing moment from your childhood- one that still (maybe after 20 years) makes you physically cringe. You can vividly remember what you were wearing, where you were and random details around you. Your heart still may beat faster, and you still might blush or get really uncomfortable thinking about it. 

This is how it goes with PTSD. 

When I get a trigger that reminds me of when Owen died- a smell, a sound, or just a thought that randomly pops up- I get a physical reaction to it. I feel sick to my stomach and I'm thrown right back to the days surrounding his death and birth. I can't control it. My brain is wired to respond. "Are we still in danger?" "Are we going to face loss again?" "What can I do to prevent it?" 
And a myriad of questions and plans and obsessive thoughts follow.

I feel responsible... I have to figure out how to prevent it- the worst- from happening again.

My PTSD flares whenever it feels like it, honestly. Pregnancy and doctor's offices bring it out pretty badly. Sometimes I don't even know why I get triggered, but when it comes, I have to face it because the alternative is not healthy or safe. I'm so thankful that the Lord put my therapist in my life when He did, so that I can have all the tools I have to cope with it. 

**

After our accident at the pool a couple of weeks ago... more specifically, later that night as I was lying in bed NOT sleeping next to my precious girl, I had a few panic attacks and my PTSD was triggered terribly. I was devastated that I hadn't stopped her falling into the pool in the first place, and I was terrified/horrified/guilt ridden that I almost didn't see her until it was too late.

But then... but then I thought about how I did see her, I did get her out safely, she did hold her breath until I was able to grab her, and she has suffered no physical repercussions from her near drowning.... and then I thought... none of that was because of me.

I did it all wrong. I messed up big time. All of my planning and thinking and worrying and googling (I can tend to have a terrible google habit) did her no good when it came down to it.



We had a 14 hour day in the car a few weeks ago and ended up listening to a few Tim Keller sermons. One specifically Chris wanted me to hear because it talks about God's sovereignty and our responsibility. I think the tag line (if sermons have tag lines) was "because God is sovereign, we are responsible."
God orders everything to be in line with his plan, and He really is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1). Every decision we make is not out of God's hands, but a part of God's design. If we believe we're in control then we feel paralyzed- this is often where I fall. And on the other side, if we're not responsible, then we feel complacent because it doesn't matter what we do or don't do. Both reactions are not in line with how our great God works.
It was a much more eloquent sermon than I could ever explain here. This is the link if you want to listen.


And so, I'm thankful for the gentleness with which the Lord deals with me. It is not harshness that I feel from Him at all, though I certainly could warrant a great deal of it... especially when I live out my days feeling and thinking that I am in control and it is my responsibility- my burden- to think of everything, to worry about everything, to try to control everything so that life will go as I desire (i.e. my big one- I want my children to be healthy and safe. I know what it feels like to be separated from a child, and it is a paralyzing fear sometimes).

I will probably always err on the more hyper-vigilant side of things when I parent, but what I've been so thankful to see recently is the Lord's sweet care of us. And I'm thankful that the burden that I've been so weighed down by has lessened some.
He was watching Hannah Mae when she slipped off the steps of the pool.
And He was paying attention when Owen's movements had changed and he silently slipped into Heaven.
It was not my responsibility to know what I couldn't have known... to control and stop his death. No amount of worrying or obsessing or researching will change the number of days our loving Father has given us. This should not discourage us, but encourage us that we are safe with him. This is a much harder reality to face and deal with when you've experienced the death of a loved one and now live with the reality of the separation, but we can rest in our Father's arms.

This is something I know I will struggle with until Jesus makes all the sad things untrue, but I am thankful for the glimpses we get... for the sweetness of freedom we can experience, for the rest that is found in Jesus. 



My sweet girls had a fancy morning one day last week.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Handling it

 I have been on the wrong side of those statistics you hear women whisper about nervously. "I couldn't handle that" they say. And inside I think, yes I haven't handled it very well at all.


Lying facedown on the bedroom floor in a house we hastily moved in to escape the toxic memories of our old apartment building, grief and sadness threatened to drown me.
Collapsing in the kitchen, in the middle of making dinner, sobs poured out uncontrolled.
Errands abandoned at the sight of pregnant women and babies.
Fists pounding on my steering wheel in rage, eyes barely able to see the road in front of me.

Shaking, nauseous and always at the edge of falling apart, I started going back to church. Only to leave midway through each Sunday, running out of the sanctuary because of a song, a memory, a hurtful (unintentional) word, the sound of a crying baby.


I haven't handled it at all.


Lying facedown at my Savior's feet, sadness and longing my only words.
Collapsing into my Savior's arms, my tears he caught and held.
My old life abandoned, remade and transformed.
Fists unclenched and open, eyes cast upward, looking forward.


I have been held, carried and kept.

It was never mine to handle.

We are held, carried and kept.




Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I lift up my eyes

I will be 32 soon. This fact actually has nothing to do with what I want to write about except that with the passage of time I am reminded of the brokenness of this world.

All our bodies are riddled with brokenness. We are broken people. Some of us (more than others) are reminded of our brokenness from the moment our eyes open in the morning. Our bodies ache, our hearts grieve and the undeniable not-rightness of this world screams for attention.

But some of us can ignore our brokenness- content to go days, weeks, months or years without thinking much about our broken state. We can exercise, eat healthy food, and convince ourselves that this is enough. We can deny the hurt in our hearts, and keep busy with work, school and play. We can maybe even fool ourselves into believing that we have our 'stuff' together, that things aren't so bad.

But the fact remains... we are broken and dying. Our bodies need more than healthy food and exercise. Denying the hurt and needs of our hearts will only suffice for a time.

Our bodies, our souls need regeneration. And this broken world, the one where babies are stillborn and people die and marriages end and people knowingly and willingly hurt each other, this world needs regeneration. And that is why the Good News of the Gospel is so freaking good.

Jesus has promised to come back. And when he does, he will set all things right. He will mend our broken bodies, heal our broken hearts and separation will be no more. This world will be remade and it will not be broken.

We don't have to ignore the brokenness in the world or in our own lives. Sugar-coating the hurt in our lives and putting on a positive attitude will not heal hearts. Only Jesus and his promises can fix what is broken.

When we pretend that the hurt does not run deep, we are denying ourselves the comfort of the Gospel. Jesus did not smile and pretend that things aren't bad here. He wept. He overturned tables and was angry. He died because things really are that bad.


There are a lot of hurting people in this world, and we are part of the broken masses. We need Jesus, and that's a good thing because He is real and He is bigger than we can even imagine.

I am not a pessimist. I don't sit around and hand out Debbie downer comments left and right. But I am a sober realist. Ignoring reality will not give us an accurate picture of what an awesome Savior, and Father God we have; but embracing the depth of our brokenness will lead to such joy and hope in Lord, I promise. Much more importantly, Jesus promises this.


We are in the already/not yet. We are free from sin, though we will still struggle with sin until Jesus comes back. There is no remedy we can trust that will keep us safe from the effects of the fall. We are safe with Him, though the effects of this broken world still hurt and grieve us.

The Gospel is sweet, good news to us, the broken people of this broken world. Jesus came to save, and we are saved when we put our trust in Him.

We wait with eagerness and joy because He will return to make all things new.


"I lift up my eyes to the hills
from where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord
who made heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1-2

"For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven, making peace by the blood of cross." Colossians 1:19-20

Out of body experience

Ever since the first week of March when I got that first (of two) positive pregnancy test, I've been feeling a bit like I'm having an out of body experience. I remember feeling this way when we brought Ruby home from the hospital- and how it lasted months and months and months. Is this our life? Do we really have two daughters?

Except now I'm thinking to myself, Am I really pregnant again? Am I really having another boy?
Late last week I was lying on the couch after the girls had gone to bed, and I felt this small tap tap in my lower abdomen... the unmistakable kick of a baby. I smiled and told Chris that I felt him move, and then I started to cry. I really never thought I would feel a baby move inside me again... or that I would experience the beauty of pregnancy again.

I spent more hours than I'd like to admit reading through old blog posts tonight. I started reading back in November of 2009... when I was 16ish weeks pregnant with Hannah Mae. I am now 16 weeks pregnant with our baby boy. I needed to go back and remember what it was like to be pregnant with her (not that I had really forgotten).
I kept reading, and I read the next four and a half years worth of blog posts, because I just couldn't stop reading. Reading the anxiety ridden words during HM's pregnancy, and then the relief and joy at her birth, the words of an exhausted new mom who had no idea that her fears would continue well beyond pregnancy.... on and on I read.

I was such a broken record during those pregnant months with HM. I was SO anxious. I was terrified. I had so much time on my hands too, because I was no longer working and I had no children in my home to look after. I obsessed over every little thing and I freaked out all the time. I didn't feel like I could trust myself or my body to know what was normal... especially towards the end.
To top off an anxiety/fear filled pregnancy, her birth was not what I expected. I remember so clearly how severely disappointed I was in my body that she too was born small and early... that she too struggled in my body. I remember what adamance I had about not wanting to experience another pregnancy because I felt so betrayed by my body. 

This pregnancy is so different in a lot of ways, as I have two children in my care each day. I have two small people who follow me around, watch me take my twice daily shots, fight and play with each other, and fight and play with me. We are busy, even if at the end of the day I have nothing to show for it... nothing except a messy house and two amazing and sleepy baby girls tucked into their beds. 
Generally I have less time to worry, but I still worry. Oh, I still obsess... but I am thankful (as I told someone the other day, who then laughed with the truth of it) that I've only had three panic attacks this pregnancy. I know it could be many, many more. 

Most of the time, I don't feel like I'm at the edge of a cliff with anxiety... like I did with Hannah Mae's pregnancy. This time it is more of a dull, constant ache of anxiety. I am worried. I am scared. But I am hopeful. This time I know what it is like to take a baby home from the hospital, what it's like to experience all the joys of motherhood after pregnancy. I can imagine what I only dared to dream about when I was pregnant with Hannah Mae.

I am still a broken record this pregnancy: I am worried. I am scared. But I am hopeful too.


Some of my favorite pictures lately...


A sweet new friend is an amazing photographer and she asked us to be her models. We loved it!


Easter Sunday 2014


It is still the little things about having living children that mean the most to me. I love reading to them, singing with them, and cuddling after bath time. Rocking my girls in our rocking chair is so precious to me. I love picking them up after church in the nursery and seeing their sweet faces as they run up to me. I treasure tucking them in bed each night and rubbing their chubby faces, telling them how precious they are to me. Oh, they are so precious to me.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

No longer my only

At 11 weeks I got bloodwork to find out this baby's gender. They said it would likely take 6-10 business days, which meant we had two weeks to wait it out. I had almost convinced myself that this baby was a girl.
But it's not.

Our baby is a boy.
He is due this November. Seven years to the month after I gave birth to my first baby boy.

Typing those sentences out is so surreal. I honestly can't wrap my head around all that I'm thinking and feeling, and I've been oddly quiet about it- which is unusual for me, but I honestly feel like my brain is still processing it all.

One thing that is for sure... I'm ten times more nervous about him now that I know he's a boy. Right after I found out the gender, I told three of my closest friends, and all three responses I got were the same. "What?! Oh my goodness! How are you feeling about this???"

Shocked. Overjoyed. Amazed. Terrified. Thankful. So.freaking.anxious.

Other thoughts and emotions creep in when I start thinking about this baby boy... I don't want Owen to be forgotten... to be left out. He was my first baby. And for years, my only son. I know this is no one's intent, but as his mama I am fiercely protective of his personhood. I feel so thankful because I have not felt as though he's being left out of our family count, but it is a deep fear of mine.

My anxiety for this baby's health and safety slowly ramps up as each day, each week passes. I know
most women feel calmer and safer as they reach each pregnancy milestone and enter the second and
third trimesters, but this is not true for me. Honestly, I'm envious and I wish it was.

I carried Owen the longest. He was stillborn at 36 weeks 1 day.
Hannah was born a week earlier, at 35 weeks 3 days.

There is never a moment I feel safe during pregnancy. And rarely a moment I feel calm. My only option is to keep moving forward, praying and rejoicing and falling on my knees remembering who is in control... remembering in whose arms this baby boy is safe.


So I guess that's where I am now. Vacillating between fear and excitement. Joy and anxiety.

When I was pregnant with Hannah Mae I literally (as much as I tried and tried) could not imagine what having a living baby after pregnancy was like. I could not imagine taking her home.

It's a bit different this pregnancy...
I can imagine bringing this baby home. I can picture two big sisters with their little brother.
I can imagine a happy ending and I pray for it every day.





Wednesday, May 14, 2014

And in the morning...

The morning after I wrote this post about not feeling done, I woke up and took a pregnancy test.

I sat and waited in the bathroom, listening to the early morning sounds of my two girls and their daddy in the kitchen making breakfast. I had never used a digital test before, and watching the timer blink was weirding me out a little.
I tried to process what I was feeling.
I found myself praying it was positive, and then I thought, "Am I crazy for wanting it to be positive so badly?"


If you read this blog four years ago, then you'd know that my pregnancy with Hannah was terrifying, and she was born five weeks early because my doctors saw signs that she was beginning to struggle like Owen did before he died. I was a nervous wreck, a basket case the whole pregnancy. After she was born, I honestly felt like pregnancy was something I didn't want to experience again.

When the desire came to have another baby, I knew God was calling us to adopt. As crazy as it may have seemed (and sometimes felt) to adopt during graduate school, we knew it was right. Ruby came to us a year and a half later, and she is our treasure. We are so thankful that God called us to be a part of something so amazing and beautiful. Our experience adopting Ruby and meeting her birthmom was one of the most holy things I've ever been a part of.

And so, it was so very strange that I started to think about pregnancy again last fall. The thoughts, and the desire took me by complete surprise. I started praying about it... late night praying in the dark... pleading for clarity and wisdom... and honestly, asking the Lord to take away this desire if it was not going to happen for us.

And also... I started feeling sorry for myself too. Why did things have to be so hard for us? Why couldn't it just be easy to decide to have children? Why does pregnancy have to be so scary and difficult, and a trigger on top of all that?

Waiting in the bathroom for the test results that morning, all these thoughts and feelings, memories and fears swirled in my head.


And then the test read 'Pregnant'. And then the test read pregnant.


You can probably imagine how excited, nervous, overjoyed and scared we are...
I'm thankful that The Lord has been preparing our hearts for this, though we both had no idea we
would ever have another biological child. These past few months have been so nerve wrecking and exciting. I've been trying to decide when and how to share this happy news and now seems as good a time as any!

Please pray for us. We covet your prayers for peace and for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Brushing the dead grass away

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I spent the day with my girls, my mama, and my grandmama. It was the first time in six years that I have recognized that it was Mother's Day at all.

I snuggled and laughed with my daughters.
I hugged and kissed my sweet mama, who has been so patient and gracious and loving to me as I have been ignoring Mother's Day since Owen died.
I went to church and wept as the choir sang the song we sang as we buried Owen. I let the words wash over me, my tears falling silently.
I knelt at my firstborn son's grave and brushed the dead grass off his marker.


As I hugged my mama and wished her a happy Mother's Day, I thanked her and whispered that this day is finally starting to get easier. And it's true though a part of me felt bad for saying it. It felt like I was admitting that it is easier now to not have my first baby here with me for Mother's Day- which I don't think could ever be true. But I am learning to live this life I have been given... I am learning.


Brushing the dead grass away... wiping his marker clean with my hands. I ran my finger over his name, and washed it with my tears. I whispered secret words to my firstborn son and told him that I love him, and I miss him.

I ache to see him, to talk to him and hug him, for us to be together as a whole, unbroken family... and I have great hope that one day we will do just that.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tender

“Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah Blah Blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love." Zooey Deschanel 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Other people's stories don't invalidate our own.

This has taken me a long time to process and write, but I'm finally finding it easier to talk about the dreaded blessings topic again.

I sat down with a seminary professor a year and a half ago to talk about blessings. You see, ever since Owen died, I've had it in for the word blessings. I've downright hated it and even felt a lot of hostility to those who used it frequently. "God blessed me with this or that." "I pray God gives you the blessing of children." Grrr.....  I probably didn't make many friends during this period in my life. I was angry, pretty much all of the time.

I had always thought blessings were the good things that happen to us. It seemed to me that using the word blessings was like saying, "This awesome thing happened to me and if I want to sound Christian-y then I need to give God the credit for it." Blessings were the things that we prayed/asked for and then received.

It turns out I was wrong.

Blessings are in everything that God gives us in order to bring us closer to himself, our Father. Those things that show us our great need of him, and pull us into a deeper and more vibrant relationship with him.

Blessings can be things which we prayed would never happen. (Don't get me wrong, death is still and will always be evil, wrong and something that God hates. It wasn't supposed to happen.) 


Even before this great talk with the professor I've always thought of my three babies in Heaven as 
blessings. When people would tell me that they were praying for God to bless me with children, I 
would seriously freak out inside (and maybe on the the outside too). My babies' lives are blessings and how God has worked in my heart since their deaths- that's a blessing too.

One afternoon recently as I was washing up the lunch dishes a thought popped into my head....
Other people's stories don't invalidate our own. 

Praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This thought has developed into a paradigm shifting view on blessings and our life stories.
Maybe I'm the only one (but probably not) who has ever felt like God was holding out on me when all my friends were having babies so easily. Or when many of my friends had two living children in the span that I lost three of my babies. Or when it was time for Bible study to end and all the kids came running out the nursery to their mommies and I went home alone.


And then there's our struggles. What is going on when God seems to be so faithful to others in their struggles, but I am still struggling with the same damn thing I've been struggling with for six years?? I don't believe that God's faithfulness to others means that God has abandoned us when he doesn't work in our lives the same way. Or that he's not faithful to us in our continued struggles. He is working in our lives too. Maybe it doesn't look the same or seem as obvious, but if we're his children then he's with us and he's promised not to abandon us or forsake us.

Other peoples' stories don't invalidate our own. Praise the Lord. And when we're his children, he blesses us with his divine (holy and sacred) presence daily. By his Spirit, we can look not to the perceived discrepancies in our lives compared to our brothers and sisters, but to the faithfulness and beauty of God's work in our lives. He loves us. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Baby talk

I have been praying about having more children for probably six months. It's not that I'm exactly ready to have more children right now nor are we "trying", but it's on my heart to pray.
It's hard not to think about these things when you are surrounded with them. I'm sure many women can agree with me.

It has been this way since I found out I was pregnant with Owen almost seven years ago... I started seeing chubby, bright eyed babies everywhere. Stretched baby bumps, beautiful pregnant mamas. Toddlers holding their parents' hands jumping, bouncing, barely contained balls of energy.

When Owen died, the mere sight of any of these things would send me into a full blown panic attack. It was over a year before someone (my doctor) told me I has PTSD. And that those were my triggers. What a messed up, terrible fortune - to have something so angelic, so beautiful turn me into a shaking, tearful, hyperventilating mess.

It has taken time, counseling and so much grace but I no longer get panicky around babies or pregnant women. The hyperventilating and the shaking have turned into a deep and personal sadness. Honestly, sometimes I do still need space from conversations centered around pregnancy, birth and babies. In the world of bereavement, it is what we call being gentle with ourselves. You don't always have to put on a brave front and you don't have to stay in a situation that is causing stress or triggering feelings from your loss.

It has nothing to do with anyone else and the joy and excitement I feel for friends and family who are having babies. I want to celebrate with you and love your children. Truly.


I've heard women talk about the feeling of being "done". Maybe it's hard for them to explain what it feels like to know they don't want any more children. Maybe it's an easy choice, or a choice made for them or an agonizing decision based on a lot of variables.
I don't know. I don't know because I'm not there.
I don't feel done.

And I often wonder if I ever will. Will the missing ones make our family feel forever incomplete? I think so. But then, will it be clear to us when there will be no more babies?

I've been aching lately... in a different way than I've become accustomed to feeling.
I want to raise a son. And The Lord knows, as I've been praying this for the past six months, I don't want to want something (so badly) that The Lord has not ordained for us.





Thursday, February 27, 2014

This body

After 16 years away from the gym, I have nervously stepped back into the world of chalk, beams and springboards. I was a gymnast for almost six years as a child. I competed up until level 8 (there are 10 levels and then elite).
I was 16 when I quit. And I have missed it ever since.

Last week a friend invited me to be a part of an adult gymnastics class, and I hesitantly agreed. I have been out of the gym for almost half my life and I know my body has changed since I was an athletic teenager. I know without trying that I am unable to do the things which used to come so easily.

So, last night was my first time back on the floor, the narrow beam and the chalky bars which used to rip my hands and leave them bleeding. And I loved it. Much to my surprise, a few things came back so easily. I can do a handstand into a forward roll with straight arms. I can round off, and I still have a massive rebound (also I remember how to fall). I can almost do a kip on the bars and a cartwheel on the beam.

But to be honest, I hated it too.
My body remembered the way it's supposed to move, but it can no longer flex and move like it could 16 years ago. It was frustrating and really, I was a bit ashamed of this body of mine.

This body... This body that I have lived with for 31 years.

This body that cannot regulate thyroid hormones.
This body that does not sleep well, and tosses and turns most nights.
This body that has too much hair on its arms, and scars mixed in with the freckles and moles.

This body that has wrinkles and lines that no longer disappear when I stop frowning or smiling.
This body that has rolls in some places and dimples in others.

This body that has danced and flipped and stretched for years. This body that, though it remembers how to, cannot make itself follow through.

This body that has been pregnant four times.

This body that has birthed a boy who, despite all my efforts to care for him, to protect him and nourish him with this body, was born still and silent. This body that turned into a grave for my only son. This body that was supposed to give life, delivered death instead.

This body that has birthed a girl who, after a few hours of labor, was born by c-section. A delivery that filled the operating room with cries and shouts of praise, thank God.

This body that has been starved and abused and neglected, all by its caretaker.

This body that provided milk to my oldest baby girl for three years, despite how uncomfortable that makes people.
This body that strove hard to provide that same nourishment to my youngest baby girl, though it was
unable to after five weeks of trying.

This body that holds and rocks and sings, and dances and hugs and cares for two girls all day (and night).
This body that is a safe place to my daughters.

This body that has suffered through binge eating, criticism, and loathing, all from its caretaker.

This body that The Lord has given.
This body... that is the only one I have.

This body that is broken and weak and wanting of so much, but... this body is what I have.


This body that will be remade one day. But not yet.

This body that The Lord has given me.


This... my body-
I will try to love you better. I will try to use you well, and not abuse you. I will appreciate you for all you have done, but I cannot glorify or idolize you because I know your limits and your brokenness all too well.

I will try to take better care of you. I will try to be kind.
Because you're mine.
Because I cannot punish you because this world is broken.

It was not your fault that Owen died.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Five

Two little girls sleeping soundly in the next room. If I strain my ears hard enough, I can hear their steady breathing. Their presence lies on the living room floor, in scattered toys and misplaced socks. In nighttime waking with a baby unsettled by teething.

They are written in the laugh lines around my eyes.


Three little ones, just out of sight. Their absence glaring and painful.
A chain of silver around my neck- a circle, a name, a birthdate. Two bins of clothes and blankets, stuffed animals never cuddled or played with.

If I sit quietly I can feel their presence. Deep as the ocean. Still and silent as winter night.
Warm as the sun.

They are written on my heart.


My arms may be empty of three little ones but my heart...
my heart is full of them.