Miscarriage, Motherhood

How am I feeling?

How am I feeling? It’s been a week, am I feeling better? Has life moved on? Do I need anything?

The shortest answer I’ve been able to come up with when my dear, sweet friends and well-meaning acquaintances ask me how I am doing is “things are weird right now.”

They are weird because I feel everything. All of it.

I feel sad.

because of course I do. I lost a child. I lost it in my home, unexpectedly, before I could even wrap my mind around the idea of that child completely, but after I had started to plan for that child and love it.

I feel angry.

because who wouldn’t? I am angry in a weird way, though. I am angry at nothing really in particular. I am angry that God doesn’t clearly and audibly speak to me. I know that for the majority of human history, it has been this way and that people have gone centuries between ANYONE hearing from God, but that logic doesn’t remove the longing from my heart to hear my Father’s voice.

I am angry that the way my husband is grieving is different than the way I am grieving. Although, I also know this is silly because his difference is one (major) reason I love him. Whereas I am a passionate flame that burns quickly and brightly, hopping from one project to the next, throwing my full self into everything and seeing every hill as one to die on (I’m working on that…), he is a slow and steady discipline. He always takes the long view and paces himself accordingly. And I love that. But right now, although I need him to be the pillar of strength that he is, I sometimes wish to see that I am not the only one with strong feelings.

I am angry that I don’t know what this all means. Or if it has any meaning. I feel like I was a part of a slight of hand show. “Surprise! Look over there! What is that? Surprise! Now it’s gone!” because of that:

I feel shaken.

I feel frustrated with my body.

As a woman, I’ve had mixed feelings about my body my entire life and now that I am in my thirties, I am appreciating it more than I critique it, but I also feel like I still don’t know what it’s doing on how to treat it.

And right now, I despise getting dressed. This was going to be my fourth baby, so my body reacted accordingly and “gave in” to pregnancy. A week after losing my baby, I am still a little swollen. My clothes don’t fit and it makes me mad that I have to deal with that when the reason for them not fitting is gone. TMI for the squeamish among you: but I am also still bleeding heavily and that is heartbreaking and frustrating. As one of my dear friends lamented “it is so hard to watch life leave your body.” Every trip to the bathroom is a reminder of the death I recently endured.

And yet, the weird part is, I feel mostly normal. I am carrying on, preparing for all the classes I am teaching this fall. I am cleaning my house and continuing with home projects I had begun. I am exercising. I am not cooking again just yet, but I am close. (Cooking is a joyful experience for me, but right now, for some reason I find the creating of food…that simple pleasure of turning ingredients into something else entirely to be difficult to approach.)

I feel guilty.

I feel guilt when I am feeling normal. Shouldn’t I still be sad? Or should I? How do people expect me to behave right now? Why do I care what people expect?

I feel shame.

I feel shame because I have three beautiful children whom I adore. Who am I to mourn the loss of one that I never got to meet? And yet, I feel shame for not honoring this very real life. Because if I don’t acknowledge this very real loss, what does that say about this life, the beginnings of life, and the grief of those who have also felt this loss?

I feel embarrassed.

because I feel like everyone is looking at me and thinking I am broken. I know this is (mostly) not true. But there you have it.

Feelings generally don’t care about what is true.

I also feel grateful.

I am grateful for the community that has lifted us up in prayer, has fed my family when I couldn’t find the strength to care about food, has told me that they are thinking of us and given me tearful hugs and just listened to me tell my story. I am grateful for you all. I wouldn’t have made it through “mostly okay” without you all.

I feel pangs of longing.

I love love love all my pregnant friends and the ones with newborns and please hear me say I harbor NO ill will or feelings towards you. I love you and I rejoice with you and I pray and hope that everything goes well with you. If it can’t go well with me, I so want it to go well for you and I am cheering you on and praying for you and your child.

But … a part of my stupid brain whispers “I should be pregnant right now, too”, “we should be in this together”, “I should be getting to hold my baby soon”. And I hate that part of my brain because it is not helpful in the least. But please, dear friends, don’t hold back, don’t tip toe around me. I am mostly okay and I really want to be there for you as well, but also please forgive me if I avert my eyes from you or seem to dodge you sometimes, those are times when my brain is being stupid.

I feel sad, angry, shaken, frustrated, mostly normal, guilty, shame, embarrassed, grateful, and pangs of longing.

In short, I’m in a weird place.

 

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.  

 

General

Hey Jealousy: a confession

I need to be honest, I have been struggling. And to be even more honest, I am angry and ashamed about the struggle. I didn’t think this was my particular struggle, but as it turns out, when God slowly strips away layer after layer of the polish I’ve attempted to put on myself, my true nature is revealed.

It snuck into my heart gradually. Or perhaps it was always there and I just gradually noticed it. I used to  feel like a confident and happy person, but lately my heart has been filled with envy. Not to say that I’m never happy these days, but I have noticed that my reactions to others hasn’t been so gracious lately. My heart sees what others have and then, instead of increasing the joy by being happy for them, my heart slyly whispers up at me “You’ve worked so hard. You are so smart. You volunteer so much of your time! You DESERVE this, too” And I listen to it. I more than listen, I agree with enthusiasm.  

The difference was especially noticeable during my drives around town and time spent on social media. On my way home, I frequently pass this beautiful house. It is painted a lovely yellow color, has a wide, friendly-looking front porch, great landscaping and a double garage. It looks like it could be an extra-large farmhouse and should be filled with friends and pie. I have always admired it and appreciated its beauty. It used to make me smile, but lately, when I drive by it I instead feel a pang of desire and something like anger at not being able to have it.

It’s a very strange feeling: to have something that once brought you joy to now make you feel jealous and unsatisfied.

I used to claim that I didn’t have a problem with social media because it didn’t make me feel envious (I had a problem with social media for other reasons, but that can be discussed another time). And I really didn’t think it was affecting me at all. I was able to look at photos of people on vacations, getting jobs, going out for coffee, showing off new outfits, and what fun and educational thing they were doing with their kids and so on and so forth and think “That’s nice for them! Or how cute is that?” and move on. Maybe even be a little inspired.

However, lately, I’ve noticed a different reaction to others’ photos and stories on social media. (Certainly jealousy existed way before social media did, so I am not at all blaming my issues on social media. However, social media does act as a catalyst and speeds up any reaction I may have had naturally.) The Devil found the chip in my polish there and, true to form, it was in the DETAILS.

Mostly in the backgrounds of people’s photos on social media. The things I started to notice were the material their couch was made of, the fresh paint on their walls, how clean their house appeared, the kitchen gadgets they had or new lettering board they posted with. I noticed the type of clothing  they wore. Then I started mentally tallying up how much each item must have cost and then I started believing it was unfair that I didn’t also have all those things.

Jealousy had begun to rob me of not only my joy in observing beautiful things, but also robbing me of celebrating with friends and multiplying their joy. As jealousy grew, it was pushing out the joy.

How could I let this happen? How had I allowed envy to replace contentment in my life? I have some ideas, but I’m going to save that for a later post. Right now, I just want to confess that I am not immune to wanting. Jealousy is such a common thing that we can be fooled into thinking that we are above it or “too old for that.” But it’s also a sneaky thing and slips in when our guard is down (or our hubris is up…).

The first step is realizing you have a problem, right? So now to focus on remembering that my happiness is doesn’t come from things or degrees or jobs or even pretty yellow houses with wrap-around porches. It is found in appreciating what I do have and have been given. It is remembering that from which I have been saved and from what I have been forgiven. My joy is found in Christ alone. The God who left his throne above, came down to earth, and died to save me from the consequences of such things like the jealousy that has grown in my heart.