Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Happy grief: The dichotomy.

I’ve noticed that I’m healing differently this time. Certainly, I’m gonna have a scar (metaphorically speaking) but I feel… better, I think? I do know taking the extended leave from work was one of the wisest decisions I made. I think it came to me in the parking lot after the ultrasound — I hate the finality of that…  the ultrasound… the one that ended it, that crushed our hearts — and before we even made it to the car, my mind was made up. I needed to be out of work. I wasn't going to get on with life and bury it. I tried that last time, and I almost landed in a dark oblivion.  I was going to take some time for me and for my family. And it has helped so much.

This past weekend, five days after surgery, Jake and I spent a day in Chapel Hill again for another one of his seminars for school (ironically- this must have been where we conceived last time- TMI, but important to understand the  emotional weight of the place. It’s a place where we’ve made happy memories together), and it was good to be back in a place feels okay. UNC’s campus was brimming with busyness — squirrels frolicking, pink and white dogwoods in full bloom, and college kids buzzing between classes in Keens and Vineyard Vines tees. I happily blended in while Jake attended his meeting, cozying up in the library after a healthy walk, then getting my nails done, window shopping on Franklin, and enjoying a salad for lunch. I would say time alone is dangerous, but not like this. Time alone at home in bed is dangerous. This is living again and seeing life continue. Without needing to explain anymore, I enjoyed the day. 

That afternoon, Jake and I ventured to a little town we had never heard of nearby to stay the night in a lovely B&B. The hotels were full in Chapel Hill and so our tardy attempt at reservations lead to having to go off the beaten path. And I’m so glad we did! The place was darling. And I told Jake that I actually went a full evening, laughing and smiling, and did not once think of my broken heart. Cuban food, bocci ball, history, art, and new friends. It was perfect.

Since I’ve been home, and now, a full week after surgery, I am mostly back to my normal self, so I have stayed busy. Planting tulips and giving my porch some love and subsequently spending the evenings there rocking, drinking copious amounts of hot tea and coffee, cooking and doing housework again, running errands, and just enjoying being a mother and a wife and daughter and alive.  I let her paint my nails. I didn’t fuss when they cut flips in the floor. I let her run outside and catch bees to put in her bug jar. I have just lived happily.

On Saturday we came home and picked up Makinzy and Bella, who are alway both a little more chubby and lazy and sticky after spending time with grandparents, and then on Sunday, my mom and I attended a women’s conference hosted by our church. It was on spiritual gifts. I bought the ticket a few weeks ago and had not even thought about it with all the other things rolling around in my brain. It was so good. Many women, of all ages and circumstances, gathered together for a delicious and dainty lunch, and throughout this time I found myself enveloped in hugs over and over. In the workshop portion of our conference, we worked through some testing similar to Myers-Brigg tests and my spiritual gifts were exhortation and mercy and my personality type was an unusual blend of three of the four categories. Solid-Expressive-Analytical. Meaning that I am 1.)  strong-minded, sincere, and warm. 2. talkative, social, and emotional, and 3.) a data-driven, detail-oriented, thinker, planner, perfectionist. Clearly, it was accurate. But couple this with my gifts- exhortation, lifting up others and encouraging them and mercy- empathy and love, and I feel a calling.

You see, back at school on my desk is a paper. A letter of intent for next year. And I’ve avoided it. An October baby was the perfect reason not to go back to work next year, so now, I felt a heaviness on me about my career. What do I do now? Jake and I have talked about it, prayed about it, and after the conference, I now feel a confidence. The amount I am actually bringing into our household is very small due to the gas it takes for me to travel to work. I am on the road so much. I spend so much time in my car, that I am cheating out my life as a mom and wife. My gifts of mercy and exhortation are poured out in the classroom, and by the time I get home, I am ready to collapse. I have nothing left for Makinzy, who needs more mercy that I have left to give most nights. So, I feel ready to make the jump. I am applying for a teaching job close to home. Where Makinzy can ride a bus to my school, where I will be surrounded by church family, and where I will spend 10 minutes commuting rather than an hour or more. And in that time, Jake and I will spend that salary paying down some medical debt, our vehicles, and adjusting to living off just his pay, so when I need to stay at home with a baby, it will be easier. And if a job doesn’t open up, I’ll do something local until then. I feel so relieved about this. So okay. I

It’s hard to say how the conference helped me work through all this, but it did. I guess it just reminded me of who I am and what God has called me to be. It has also opened up a door for a new Sunday School class which I am eager (I know, me? Eager for Sunday School!?) to go to. I have always felt like a black sheep in Sunday School because I don’t fit into the traditional class divisions. I was a teenager (youth group) planning a wedding, then a college student with a husband and a mortgage, and now I am a perpetually un-pregnant 26 year old mama to a 9 year old, hormone-ravaged little preteen with emotional baggage.  I have trouble relating to couples in coed classes, and I don’t think I can stand watching families grow as each week someone else in the class announces a new baby and then week by week grows before my eyes, reminding me visually of all the milestones we do not get to experience. It tempts me to envy and to be angry, and that’s not what I want or who I want to be. So the class I am hoping to visit, and maybe like, maybe love attending is one made up of women ages 30 (Gosh, how weird that I’m “close enough” now…) to 70-somehting. Full of marrieds, never marrieds, divorcees, those separated, those who are moms, and those who are not. A room full of wisdom. Of I’ve been theres. I think it’s a place where I can exhort and be exhorted. I am eager. 

To close, an accurate summary of my current place would be coexisting. In me right now, there is a coexistence of happiness and grief. Contentment and sorrow. Trepidation and confidence. I had no idea I could embody such a strange dichotomy.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Ways to heal a broken heart: A short list.

  • Take a time out on life. Work will be there 'til you retire. Use up your days. Don't worry about "if you need them" because you need them now. And if you don't get paid, remember you can't take money with you.
  • Cry. Whenever. Little Cry. Cute Cry. Ugly Cry. Nasty Cry.
  • Bake and eat and cook and treasure what yummy thing you've made. Then eat it with someone special. Bonus points for feeding a grateful crowd. Jake's grad class on Thursday really, really liked my lemon bars.
  • Let your little girl fall asleep in your arms. Better yet, fall asleep in hers.
  • Let Mama help. 
  • Write.
  • Visit with friends.
  • Take a trip. Getaways to special places that remind you of life's beauty.
  • Be anonymous. Go shopping, exploring, walking, and be alone in a crowd. Go to movie or a show, and just be a person. Not a sad person. Just a person.
  • Laugh. Let a belly laugh go and laugh until you wheeze. 
  • Find a library. Find a good book. Watch movies you've always wanted to see and escape to someone else's perspective for a little while. I might change how you see your own.
  • Say no. No, I can't help. No, I can't come. No, I won't. Sorry, but 100% of my energy is going to repairing my heart.
  • Watch nature. Sit under a tree. Channel Wordsworth, Frost, or Dickinson, and just be. 
  • Buy something new that makes you smile.
  • Make memories.
Most of all, keep living. Keep continuing to live in Him, in the beauty that He's made.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Hands and Feet

Sunday, our worship leaders almost changed the set list for me. Planned before our news, they had anticipated doing one of my favorite Christy Nockels songs, Waiting Here For You. If you don’t know know it, you should hear it. And in light of my last post, they knew, I have been waiting on God. To show up, to rescue, to explain. Something… The first verses say it so eloquently. I’m glad they didn’t change songs, because I think it was good to know others utter the same words, God, I am here, waiting on You to show me.

If faith can move the mountains
Let the mountains move
We come with expectation
Waiting here for You

You're the Lord of all creation
And still you know my heart
The Author of Salvation 
You've loved us from the start

Waiting here for You
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it's You we adore
Singing Alleluia

In my prayers for God to “show up,” I think I was asking some big old guy to come to me in my dreams in thunder and lightning and speak my name, tell me His plan, and wrap me in His arms. Perhaps a burning bush? An angel to say Behold and clarify that this was all in His mighty will for great things to come? I don’t know what I was thinking. 

Instead of Old Testament like visions, God has shown up, but in ways I did not even consider:

Like a dear friend driving for hours to sit with me at Panera and hear the horrible things I’ve thought and wished and felt. To hear the sad truths. And ready to tackle the stacks of maternity clothes if I couldn’t. 
Like a sweet offer from another friend to pamper me and let her do my hair. Because it’s how she shows love.
Like countless messages on Facebook from old high school friends, friends I haven’t seen since freshman year of college, friends of friends I barely know, all speaking words of encouragement, offering up prayer, and reminding me that I am strong enough to go through this.
Like my mama showing up to clean my house, armed with every cleaner and spray you can find.
Like ladies from church coming to love on me, armed with feel-better-goodies and hugs. Because that’s a southern girl’s way of saying I love you and I’m sorry.
Like deacons showing up to have a word of prayer with Jake, to hear his worries for me and his grief as a dad. To lift him up and encourage him.
It’s in the cards, the text, the calls. The gorgeous flower arrangements delivered to my door. It’s the prayers I feel around me.

I forget that we are not in the Promised Land. I forget that we don’t need to have God appear before us in some burning bush because He is WITHIN us. He’s not out in the clouds somewhere. HE IS HERE. In a way, I feel a little dumb. Bare with me - I’m gonna walk you through some scripture that woke me up today.
Throughout all of my miscarriages, the scripture that Jake and I wrote on all of our mirrors in expo marker, the verse I said over and over in my head each time I was wheeled into the operating room to rid my womb of a lifeless child, was Romans 8:28. It gave me hope, even when I didn’t understand. But silly me forgot to read the rest of the chapter. I’ve been reading Romans 8 for a long time with the eyes of mother whom was blessed by a child through the miracle of adoption and honed in on the verses 14-17: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought
about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I can’t believe I have never thought about this from any other angle. I knew I was His child, but the part about sharing in Dad’s sufferings AND His glory missed me. 

I have also forgotten verse 10 and 11: But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin (or in my case, the death of my growing child- in other words, because we live in a fallen world, death still happens here), the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

The chapter goes on to remind us  “…that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us - man, I can’t imagine that - (verse 18)”  and that the Spirit helps us in our weakness (True story). We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (verse 26-27).

To conclude, since my surgery yesterday, I have realized that I don’t have to keep waiting for God appear before me and help. Yes, to understand and make sense of all of this, I will wait. Because I won’t get it until someday when I can finally claim my spot as His heir and child and receive that glory. But until then, His Spirit is here around me, and I see His hands and feet in the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, in those who have picked up the shards of my life and have helped me begin gluing in all back together. 

So thanks, y’all. For showing me His love.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Aftermath

I read a lot. And during miscarriages, I seek out faith-based blogs on loss, particularly reoccurring miscarriage. I think it helps to know you are not the only one. Some doctors make miscarriage sound like the chicken pox. You get it- one and you're done. Met your statistical quota. Not that one hurts any less. But having 4 doesn't get any easier. So what about people like me? Well, according to the doctor, it's a sign of something wrong- either structurally (there's not) which is hard to fix, or hormonal, which is treatable. Then there's the little-understood area of auto-immune problems, which despite an initial diagnosis, isn't likely to be it for me either. The doctors say there is no medical reason I shouldn't sustain a pregnancy. Yet why? WHY? No answers, spiritually or medically, intensifies the pain.

In miscarriage blogs, you read statistics. You read treatment options. You read of trying again and of hope that you never experience the pain again. You rarely read of the aftermath. What happens after you hear those words, I'm sorry, m'am, but...

Here's my aftermath:
1. The phone call to family. For a while, Jake and I wanted to keep it to ourselves. With family, they are hurt, too. Grandmas and Pawpaws to be, aunts to be- families ache, too, and telling them is torture.
Worse, perhaps, ripping away the title of big sister away from a child, who isn't sure how to grieve.

2. Notifying the boss and all work-related folks. The plans to be out, and hoping the news is distributed appropriately so someone doesn't come up to you in three weeks and ask how the baby is. I might stare at them and say coldly, dead and in a lab somewhere, then burst into tears.

3. Planning the D&C. It's nauseating. Pre-registration. I know which nurses I'll see, the folks in the recovery room. The texture of the wallpaper in the pre-surgery holding room is already etched in my mind. I know what food and drink I'll have afterwords, and I'll likely be in the same room I've been in for the last three times. No one should know the operating room, the anesthesiologist, or the forms I'll sign in such detail.

4. The sympathy. It pours in. It helps. And it also helps 6 months later, when everyone else is holding babies and moved on and forgot that you are still damaged. Still aching.

5. Packing up maternity clothes and other baby things. Gosh, when people ask if they can do anything, I am tempted to say this. Go through my clothes and pull out the belly bands and button extenders, the flowy maternity tops that hid the bloat, the little pooch.  Get the crib, blankets, and diaper bag away. Get the ultrasound pics from the front pocket of my planner and delete them from my phone. Take them away. Go through my calendar and cancel appointments made in advance, white-out the weekly count on the calendar, and erase the heart around the due date. Please. I can't do it. I can't see it.

6. You have to clean the house. People will drop by. And you've wanted to do nothing but sleep for the past few weeks so everything is in need of a scrub. A cleaning service would be a nice sympathy gift, haha. That and a pedicure. Preferably before the D&C. Everyone will see you in all your naked glory anyways, might as well have nice toes. See numbers 3 and 4.  (Ironic Addendum- laundry piles are sorted and stacked messily in the living room and hall as I type, and we had a knock on the door before I even hit the post button on this blog. Sorry the house is a wreck. I am folding and packing away maternity clothes and trying not to yell and sob and stomp...)

7. Lastly, and most importantly, is the spiritual aftermath. Do you run to Him? Run away? Sit still and throw a tantrum? Confession: I tend to do the last one. I am hurt because He didn't answer me. While the ultrasound was happening, I was SCREAMING in my head "Abba, Father, I need you! ABBA, ABBA, ABBA, please fix this, make it better, help me, ABBA." Over and over and over and over. The entire time I yelled to Him from the depths of my heart and I heard nothing. And I'm not mad at God. I'm heartbroken. And I don't get why He didn't. I think of a little girl falling off her bike. Crying out for daddy as she topels over. He didn't catch her and stop the boo-boo from happening. Daddies don't stop life from hurting their girls. But Daddy does come to her, pick her up, clean her scraped knees, and kiss her and hold her until the tears stop. I am that little girl. I am still laying brokenhearted on the pavement, crying, scrapped skin stinging, and my Father Abba is coming. He's going to pick me up, and He will hold me.

So that's where I am. My current reality. I am crushed. Broken. Shattered. This sucks. But Abba is coming for His child and He will hold me.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Brokenhearted Prayers

I can’t say this time that I knew it, because I didn’t see it coming. Sure, I was nervous and worried, as I always am, but at my core, I wasn’t thinking this was how this pregnancy was going to go. 
Today, we went to the doctor (the specialist) for a routine ultrasound at 12 weeks. After much effort, neither the doctor and the ultrasound tech could find a heartbeat. Doppler was silent, and the baby appeared to have stopped growing between 8 and 9 weeks. At 12 weeks, the heartbeat should have been clear. The doctor was gentle and caring and honest. Despite the extensive testing we have done, he feels that there is no medical reason that I should not sustain a pregnancy, and as much as it stinks to hear, it looks like a fluke, especially now that I have taken aspirin to help with the potential blood disorders and that we had made so far with an established heartbeat. 

I immediately came back to work and set up taking a leave of absence, and tomorrow, I will head to my regular OB to plan out my D&C. Tonight, we shared the news with our devastated families, and we told Makinzy who is clearly hurting. My head aches, and I am emotionally drained. I am brokenhearted.

Pray for us.

Pray for me.

I am numb, and from experience I know that the days to come will be challenging to say the least, but my faith is strong. I know that He heard my prayers and father along, I’ll understand why He didn’t answer them as we had hoped. I don’t get it. I can’t pretend I understand now, or that I ever will this side of heaven. But I do know that He has not forsaken me, forgotten me, or abandoned me. 

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now”