Miscarriage, Motherhood

Dear Baby

–On August 3, 2019 at 9:00pm, Briscoe Baby 4 was born naturally at home and delivered directly into the arms of Jesus. The following is a letter I wrote to express my grief at not being able to hold him or her myself before s/he left this world. It was too early to determine the sex of Baby, but was never too early to know s/he was alive and loved.–

Dear Baby,

Things didn’t go as planned. Not even for a minute. 

Your very existence floored me. I was surprised when I found out you were there. To be perfectly honest, I knew there was a chance a baby could be created, but knowing that you were there, really and truly there and alive, that your DNA was directing millions of cells to do a variety of jobs, and those cells were faithfully multiplying: it scared me. I was scared for weeks. 

Your siblings keep me so busy, my mind was reeling at the thought of keeping up with you too, of giving you everything you deserved. But, Baby, you were always wanted. You might not have been expected, but you were ALWAYS wanted. Never for a second did I think about not making room for you. From the moment I found out you had been given to us, room was created. My heart grew, my womb grew, and I began to prepare our home for you. I love you and I will ALWAYS love you. You will always have that space in my heart. It’s yours now. We were all so excited to meet you, to hold you, and to care for you. Truly. 

Things really didn’t go as planned.

Baby, I went to check on you at the doctor’s office and I will never ever forget that day, as much as I wish I could. Baby you weren’t well. You were there and my body was doing everything to hold on to you and to keep you safe, but Baby I’m so sorry your heart wasn’t working. God’s creation is so intricate and so amazing that we are still unable to comprehend how everything fits together so perfectly and I want you to hear me say that He doesn’t make mistakes. You were not an accident and nothing about your life was outside of God’s hands. Baby, you got to meet God before I could meet you and that is incredibly special for you to be held by your Creator, but I need to be honest with you Baby, I am also really mad. I wanted to hold you. I wanted to kiss your sweet face and see who you looked like. I wanted to share you with your brothers and sister and see who you are. I wanted to know what you like and dislike and if you were going to be bookish like the rest of us. If you would like to swim and draw and play the drums like your brother, or be social and play games like your second brother, or be sweet and nurturing like your sister. But I also know you are your very own person and you would’ve surprised us with your uniqueness.

You already have surprised us.

Baby, this has been some of the hardest few days of my life. The waiting killed me. Waiting to know if you’re going to be okay or if you’re already gone. My ability to make decisions and to function was all but gone. But I’m a momma and a woman and if that means anything, it means I am damn strong. Women never give up. Women don’t back down. Women can’t stop because we run the whole freaking world. If we stop, life, very literally and figuratively stops. So I have to carry on. I have to pick up and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have to care for your siblings, but know this: I did not give up on you. I am not giving up on you. You exist and you matter. Just in a different way than we expected.

We didn’t expect any of this.

Baby, you are surrounded by such a large and loving and caring family. People whom God gave you through blood and people whom God gave you through covenant. We were all rooting for you. We all wanted to meet you. We will grieve for you and we will miss you daily, but I will also rejoice for you. You get to escape the pain of this world and go straight into the loving hands of your Creator. Christ is with you, he has never left you or abandoned you and you will not have an opportunity to doubt that goodness.

I am not trying to paint a rainbow over my sorrow. My grief of your loss is felt deeply, physically and emotionally. I am sick to my stomach. I am throwing up and I can’t stop sobbing. My head and body aches at the stress of  losing you and yet trying to hold on to you. I am scared. And I WANT you. I want you. You. But we’re not alone. And you will not be alone. My sweet and dear friend’s children, too many of them to name, will be with you as well. Because Baby, this world is broken. It is ripped apart by sin and aches for redemption and the casualties of that sin is too many of our babies. God’s heart breaks. Jesus weeps. The Holy Spirit groans. And Momma’s arms are empty. 

Baby, this wasn’t the plan.

But it wasn’t an accident.

Your life was never an afterthought to God.

I love you,

Mom 

—Verses that comfort me–

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14

“Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” 1 Cor 15:21

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.” -Ecclesiates 3:1-8

“14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”–Matthew 19:14

 

Motherhood

The End of the Baby Chapter

For the last seven years of my life (excepting the most recent 6 months when my daughter weaned off breastfeeding) my body has been performing miracles. Seven years ago, I became pregnant with my first child, a son, and have been nursing a baby or pregnant twice more since. My body has done amazing things. And over the past seven years I have felt like I was fulfilling a marvelous purpose and calling. I was doing something that only women get to participate in. Only a woman can do. And something that some women are heartbreakingly unable to do even when they so desire it. This was a special time.

 

It has been a time of incredible growth for me. My body was stretched, broken, and became unfamiliar to me and yet at the same time gave me my three beautiful children. I have survived the pain of an unmedicated labor, the mental and physical trauma of an unsuccessful delivery, the pain, confusion and terror of an unplanned c-section and have healed from it while caring for a newborn. I have felt the joy and the fear of conceiving again. Have carried a tiny person around in my body while chasing another tiny person around my home. I have watched with joy and awe as doctors performed a planned c-section to deliver my second son to me. I have felt shock and amazement at reading the positive pregnancy test and felt determination and confidence upon finding out I was pregnant with our daughter. I have felt scared and empowered beyond anything I have ever done in my entire life when I finally was able to deliver our daughter after many hours of labor with the help of my husband and wonderful nurses in a moment that I was unsure would ever happen. I was unsure if my body could birth a baby vaginally until the moment my daughter was born. It was the most affirming and joyful moment of my life so far.

 

Through all of the last seven years, as hard and as frustrating and even painful as it has been, it has also been a time full of purpose. I dove deep into pregnancy and nursing and learned everything I could about what it meant to give life to a baby growing in my womb. I learned so much about how to care for myself and the child inside of me and then how to care for and feed that child once they were born. It felt like everything was new and exciting and filled with tiny and special things. Special booties, special swaddles, special clothes that smelled so wonderful. Cribs and carseats and lovies. Strollers and toys. There was so much to learn about these tiny people in my care. It has made the last seven years full of excitement and feelings of …well…specialness.

 

This third time around has been even more special. I have felt like I finally know what I am doing. I knew what to expect. I had experienced all the pains before and knew how to deal with them. I knew how to balance a baby in one arm, a toddler in the other and guide a little boy in a task all his own. This time, I was confident that I could handle being a mother to a newborn.

 

What I didn’t expect was the heartbreak I would experience when the realization came that I was no longer in the “baby phase” of life. My baby daughter is almost two years old now, my middle son is growing bigger and stronger and more little boy like and less toddler like each day and my eldest son is finishing up kindergarten.  I no longer count how many months old anyone is. My body is no longer necessary for their sustenance. And as free as I thought I would feel, as much as I longed for these days when my back ached and my breasts hurt because they were engorged with milk for them, I also feel hollow now. My body has served a grand purpose. A special purpose. Yes, I will go on serving in new (and old) ways. My children still need cuddles and care, tears wiped and boo-boos kissed, but my womb will not be carrying another life inside of it and it has left me feeling surprisingly empty and as if I am falling short of my purpose and ability. This special chapter of my life is coming to a close. Like the ending of a good book, I am mourning the loss of this world. And although I know a new book is being written even now, with its own unique challenges and rewards, the ending of this time still hurts.

 

Perhaps some day I will not feel the heartache that comes each month when my body bleeds to let me know that it is empty and not doing that work any more. But I’m not there yet. Like every worthy and honorable challenge in life, it was the journey that has meant the most and now that my journey through childbearing years is completed I am sad to not be on that road any more. It was such a beautiful time and it passed by me so quickly while I was working so hard to survive it.  

 

Motherhood

These Are The Days

Ask most moms what piece of advice they hear most often and I bet the answer is some version of “Appreciate these days! They go by so quickly!”

I’ve tried really hard not to be that mom because I remember being at the grocery store, covered in spit-up, running on three hours of sleep with a screaming baby in my cart, trying to pick up the one thing I forgot (for the second time that week…on a Tuesday…) and feeling absolutely DONE and defeated and having a (well-meaning) older woman tell me to “appreciate the moment”.  In that particular moment, telling me to “enjoy this time! They grow up so quickly” simply added another layer of guilt and shame, and if I’m perfectly honest, anger to the tapestry of emotions I was experiencing at the time.

“Great. One more thing I’m not doing correctly,” I would think to myself as I tried to grin and nod at whatever well-meaning person. I would then be flooded with doubts.

“Am I the only one failing so hard at this? Was I even meant to be a mom?” and sarcastic quips like

“Well that’s real nice, Nancy, but right now my hormones are making my body leak all kinds of fluid and flooding my brain with ‘kill or be killed’ type messages when my baby screams so maybe you should just like back off or offer to help a sister out, OKAY?”

And yet, here I am, five (almost six!) years have FLOWN by since my first days of appearing in public as “Crazy Spit Up Covered Lady”. I’ve added two more babies to the mix and my youngest is more toddler than baby. And much to my chagrin, it takes everything in me to not say to every mom I see “Appreciate these days!! They fly by so quickly!!” (Insert facepalm here)

I caught myself a few times almost saying this to someone (okay, okay, I DID say it, please don’t hate me, Past Self) and reflecting on that later, it gave me pause. I started to question if I was following my own advice. Was I appreciating my CURRENT days?

So often, I found myself counting down the hours, the MINUTES, until bed time; feeling annoyed when I had to interact with my kids or break up their fights; getting frustrated that they wouldn’t just play quietly by themselves so I could get some “adult” things done like call the dentist or read a book. I found myself feeling like I was “wasting” time or being “inefficient” when I sat down to play with them on the floor and questioning if there wasn’t something “more important” I should be doing, like making dinner or cleaning the bathrooms.

I started to ask myself, “What was the point of parenthood?  What was my goal?” To survive until bed time? To make it to the end of another day? That can’t be right.

One of the Bible verses my children and I sought to memorize lately was Philippians 4:4-7 which, in the New Living Translation says:

” Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.[aDon’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Was I rejoicing in the Lord and all that He has done for me when I begrudged my children for wanting to be the focus of my attention? Was I remembering that the Lord God is near, when I failed to show my children the grace that I had been given by God? Was I allowing His peace to guard my heart and mind when I lost my temper at my children for interrupting me with arguments and needing to be disciplined or taught? What had I expected parenthood would be like? (That is a whole other topic I could/should write about.)

This is not to say that anyone should strive to (nor could possibly) cherish every single moment of parenthood. There are times when I just need some time alone to remember who I am and recharge my batteries. There are times when I feel like if I have to clean up one more pair of poopy undies I will lose my ever-loving mind. I get frustrated and angry when things don’t go my way because I am human.

But I am also redeemed.

I am someone who has made a lot of mistakes and whose mistakes have been seen, but forgiven and washed away. I am someone who has been provided for. Who has been given three beautiful and relatively healthy children for at least a time and I can do better to remember the joy they bring me. I can do better to remember that I prayed for these children with all my heart and that the Lord heard that prayer and responded with a “Yes.”

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 1 tells us that

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

My current season is filled with a lot of tears, a lot of bodily fluids, and a lot of temper tantrums. It’s filled with a lot of messes, and car seat buckling (and unbuckling and buckling and unbuckling and…). It’s a season of self-sacrifice. Of daily dying to myself and my agenda and allowing a very tiny human to dictate how our day will unfold, while also trying to maintain some semblance of a schedule. 

This season is also filled with lots of kisses and cuddles. Of soft baby skin and fluffy hair. Of the sweet scents of babies and toddlers. It’s filled with “Mama I wuv voo”s and tiny toes. Tiny shoes and sweaters. Baby giggles. Lots of firsts (steps, words, experiences.) It’s filled with the joy of watching your children grow and develop and feeling the weight of responsibility you have to teach them how to be in this world.

This season is fleeting. And I truly do not want to just survive it. I want to deeply experience and enjoy every moment I possibly can.

That’s the funny thing about seasons. When I begin a new one, it’s exciting and I can’t wait to embrace everything about it, but then about mid-way through it, I’m done with it and I can’t help but start dreaming about the next season and longing for change. That’s the tricky part: fully embracing the season you’re in, for the entire duration of that season. Sure, there will be days when you feel like you can’t take another day of the status quo, but hopefully when we’re armed with the knowledge that a new day is coming (and bringing change with it), we can be encouraged to enjoy the season we are currently in before it passes.

These are the days.