Friday, July 24, 2009
Four months ago, I was sitting on the beach in Mexico with my friend Tish watching our husbands try to body surf in the waves. Great entertainment. :-) I was seven and a half months pregnant. Tish was three and half months along. We were both engrossed in good books, lounging in chairs under grass umbrellas. Interrupted only by an occasional, “For you, I will give half price,” from a man carrying a case of jewelry, ready to bargain. So carefree. So light-hearted. Our biggest concerns were baby names and birthing plans.
Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time to those girls on the beach and warn them of what was just around the corner…how their innocence would soon be replaced with great sorrow…how their concerns of birthing plans would, in a moment, become funeral plans and decisions mommies should never have to make.
When I got the news a month after we got home from Mexico that Mike and Tish had had to say good-bye to their sweet baby, I was devastated. I thought to myself, ‘I wish I could call Tish and tell her how heartbroken for her I am.’ But at 38 weeks pregnant, I felt like I was not the one who could offer comfort…and, honestly, I felt like it might be too scary to relate. Little did I know that I would soon feel that same pain…that we would walk through the fire together and understand each other without saying a word.
In the pictures from our trip to Mexico, I see a girl who was relatively oblivious to the heartache that life could bring. The smile was innocent. Life was simple. But in losing that naivety, I have acquired much. I gave up something incredibly precious, but I gained something eternally valuable. I hurt for others…I mean, I really hurt for others in their pain. Probably for the first time in my life, to be honest. I no longer say to someone who is struggling, ‘I’ll be praying for you,’ without spending significant time pleading for them on my knees.
What I have learned is heavy…much too heavy at times for a 22-year-old. I told Shaun last night that I feel like I’ve aged 20 years in 2 months. My smile is not so ever-present, there are constant dark circles around my eyes…but I am no longer unaware. The mundane of life doesn’t bore me. And I see others in a new light, as children of God, and I choose (and will continue to choose) to enter into their grief. I want to be a display of God's faithfulness, and in doing so, be a comfort to those around me who are hurting.
Please pray for us. We leave on a much-needed 10-day vacation tomorrow. Pray for safety, for sweet, memorable time with family, for God to do some cool things in our marriage, and that we would take time to be still and quiet before the Lord.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
It’s been two months, and it still doesn’t feel real.
Last night I had dinner with a bunch of my co-workers. When I announced to my friends at work that I was pregnant months ago, I was one of seven employees expecting the arrival of a sweet baby. Five of those babies have arrived, including Zachary, and three of those babies were at dinner last night…all adorable baby boys…but mine was missing. I didn’t get to join the conversations about nursing in public or diaper blowouts in the carseat. I had nothing to contribute…I just sat there and smiled and nodded. Physically, I look like I just had a baby, just like the other new mommies, but my baby is missing. Missing. My baby boy is gone. It really, really hurts, but it’s also so surreal. A couple of times during dinner, I just reached up to touch the silver heart that hangs on a necklace around my neck…a momento that they sent home with us from the hospital…I just needed to be reminded that what we’ve been through really did happen. And I got to snuggle those precious, little boys against my chest. It’s so ironic…to hold a baby boy is so comforting, but such an incredible source of pain all at the same time. It feels “right”, but I just end up thinking, ‘Zachary would be just a little bit smaller…his hands were bigger…his hair was darker and longer…’
When I got home, the house was quiet and empty again. I sat in the baby room. I hugged the blue, knit blanket that I snuggled Zachary in on May 17th. I held the little Zip-loc bag filled with clips of his hair. I looked at ultrasound pictures…pregnancy pictures…pictures of the day he was born. I just needed it to feel real. As I flipped through pictures, my eyes locked on one of the three of us…Shaun and I sitting in the hospital bed together...my hair’s a mess, I’m in an ugly, blue hospital gown, our eyes are swollen and bloodshot…but our son is resting peacefully in my arms, and we’re both looking down at him and smiling…smiling.
Yes, it’s all very real. Yes, there is joy in the sorrow…but the sorrow is deep and dark and all-consuming at times. I wish God was not so mysterious. I hold to the belief that this is a really bad chapter of a really good book...and that the Author really does know the end from the beginning, and every word in between.
Oh, Great God, be small enough to hear me now.
how many hairs are on my head.
Oh, great God, be small enough to hear me now.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:4-9
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Now, some people might read this and think that I'm sick for thinking about having another child after having just lost our firstborn 7 weeks ago. I often have those feelings, too...at times I am wracked with guilt by the concept of having more children.
A couple of weeks ago, a good friend spoke some incredible wisdom to me, though. She said that the emptiness I incessantly feel is really two separate voids. The first void is for my baby boy...and that void can never be filled in this lifetime. I will always have a deep hole in my heart left by Zachary. That's just how it is, and I will carry his memory and an intense longing for him every day for the rest of my life. The pain will lessen over time, but that void will always be there. The second void is for a family...for constant noise and chaos in our home, to have our empty baby room be occupied, to comfort a crying child, to watch my wonderful husband do the same, and to do all of the other things a mom gets to do. And that void can (and I believe with all my heart will, one way or another) be filled! The desire for a family is one that God has placed in my heart, and the dream of being parents did not die with Zachary. I will not be replacing my firstborn son...it's impossible. And having more children in the future is in no way dishonoring Zachary's memory. So I am excited at the possibility of having the opportunity to raise children in the future.
That being said, however, now is not the time. Physical implications aside, I'm not ready. When we first left the hospital, and even until just a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to get pregnant as soon as possible. In part because I deeply desire to have a child in my arms, but I also figured if I just got pregnant right away, it would almost feel as if I had never gone through such a traumatic loss. I wanted to have something to look forward to again as soon as possible. And I'm convinced that whether we get pregnant in the next year or ten years from now, I will still be grieving...maybe not as intensely, but still grieving. And pregnancy will bring to mind all sorts of memories of my first pregnancy. I will, in a way, be grieving a whole new dimension of this loss.
But now is not the time. And I have no idea when the time to get pregnant again will be. All I know is that God knows when my body and my heart have healed enough, and I will have a peace about having our second baby. I don't have that peace right now. And I've been battling this mindset that, because God chose to take Zachary, He "owes" us a healthy family. God doesn't "owe" me anything, and it's ridiculous for me to demand anything. He knows the desires of my heart, and He will fulfill those in His timing and in the way He knows is best. My job is to trust Him and to be grateful for everything He gives me, even the small things...even the most painful things.
And I feel like God's not done changing my heart through this process. I'm certain that He will never be finished using Zachary's life to transform my own until I get to heaven, but I want to dedicate as much of my attention as possible to His transforming work for the time being. I'm not through the intense phase of grief yet, and I need time to feel whole enough in order to pour my love into another child without reservation. I just want God to use this pain for all it's worth...and to make it something powerfully beautiful! I want Him to refine me like gold, even if the heat is excruciating. I want God to get rid of everything in my life that does not make Him proud, even if that pruning feels crippling at times. He is faithful...sometimes believing that is simply a matter of faith these days, but I've also never known it to be so true. I will know when it's time to have another baby, and God will be faithful then as He is now...but until I have His peace about it, it's not time.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Nevertheless, these days I go from wanting to isolate myself and shut the world out to standing in line at the grocery store and just wanting to scream, “My baby is dead!”. It’s confusing, to say the least. And emotionally and spiritually I keep going through a cycle…it’s becoming almost predictable, really. 1) I feel the presence of God inexplicably and find true rest in His grace, despite my (or maybe because of my) brokenness 2) but then something causes me to realize what I was “supposed” to have, 3) so I become angry and resentful towards God and towards everyone who has what I was “supposed” to have, 4) I hit rock bottom once again, knowing that I have nothing and am nothing apart from God, 5) and I cry out to Him…over and over and over.
And I hate focusing on what I think I was “supposed” to have…like the chance to wake up in the middle of the night to Zachary’s cry rather than silence or the chaos of traveling with a stroller and a carseat instead of just a piece of luggage… But I hate even more the bitterness that I feel taking root in my heart when I stay focused there. It entangles my soul and affects every part of my outlook and ability to function. It chokes the life out of me…I have no idea how to navigate through this pain. And, truthfully, I don’t even know how to trust God to navigate me though this most of the time. But allowing that bitterness to continue to grow makes this journey so much more challenging.
And again and again, even when I become resentful, I hear God say, “Just come to Me.” Even if I’m so angry I can’t think right, He wants me to tell Him what I feel. Even when I feel trapped in the depths of depression, He wants me to lay it all at His feet. And when I feel like I just might feel like this forever and that there’s no way life can be good again from here on out, He wants me to be honest before Him. God is not intimidated by my anger. He’s not offended by my hurt or the ugliness of my emotions. He just wants me to come to Him and trust that He hurts for me and with me…even when I’m mad. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I also know it’s been a pivotal point in my relationship with Him. To trust God when I don’t see His purposes laid out in the ‘hell’ that I’m walking through and feel nothing of His nearness is nearly impossible some days. But, as ugly as it may be, I’ll keep coming to Him, even if I’m dragging my feet. And as the cycle repeats, maybe I’ll spend a little more time in stage 1 and a little less elsewhere.