Defiance of fear

Today I won a small victory against fear. I will be 11 weeks pregnant this week, rapidly approaching the mark in my pregnancy where I lost Knox and Lily. I try not to dwell on it, I try not to let the fear seep it’s way into my daily thoughts. There are fleeting moments where I think…”what if it happens again?” I can usually push it out and keep going.
But…
Every morning I am greeted with three tubs. They hold my maternity clothes. And I struggle.

The week before Knox was born, I had just unpacked all of my maternity clothes and hung them in my closet. I had finally told work I was expecting because my regular clothes were looking suspiciously tight and not in the “she ate too many chili fries” kind of way. Co-workers who knew me well had already guessed. So before we came back for our Thanksgiving visit, I unpacked, hung up and folded maternity clothes.
Then Knox died.
The night before I went to the hospital I stood in front of my closet and pulled all of those clothes out. I put them back in their tubs…I wouldn’t be needing them after all and I knew I wouldn’t want to pack them when I came home. I cried and I mourned and I was angry. I could hardly see through the tears I was crying as I folded my favorite black sweater I wore with Zeke.
So when I got pregnant with Lily, I decided not to get maternity clothes out until I had passed 15 weeks. I didn’t want to have to pack them away. But I had to pull a few things out because regular clothes were just too uncomfortable. I kept them in their tubs though. Nothing maternity went in my closet. And then she died too.
So now, here I am. Almost 11 weeks pregnant, starting to struggle to button my jeans and not look “frumpy” in anything else. There is a little bulge where this baby is growing and while most of the time it just looks like I ate too many donuts, I could use some clothes that are a little more forgiving. In addition to that, we moved 2 weeks ago and I really hate unpacking clothes. I’m sitting there thinking “if this baby makes it, I’m going to be putting these all away in a month anyway” (I hate thinking that “if” but it is a reality I know now).
But I haven’t been quite daring enough to take the lids off the bins that hold those clothes that signify the “thick around the middle” isn’t fat…it’s baby. I pass those bins sitting at the foot of my bed every morning when I wake up. They remind me of my fear, of my hurt and of the hope that just might be this time. Every day they have psyched me out and dared me to open them. And until this morning I have left the right where the guys who unloaded them put them.
Until today.
In a moment of defiance, of sheer “screw you fear”, I decided to unpack them. “It’s going to be a time waster to unpack my “regular” clothes now and put them away in a month”, I told myself. “They’re just clothes” I reminded myself as I pulled shirt after shirt, paneled pant after paneled pant out of the bin and put them in my closet. “This isn’t going to determine the outcome. God does.” Every so often I would pause and wonder if I’m doing the right thing…if I should wait until…
But I know that God has numbered this baby’s days before he or she was ever created. God knows. He has a plan. Psalm 139:13-16 says…

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

So I unpacked. And I prayed. I prayed for the health and safety of this baby. I prayed that I would find someone who would care for me, who would support me in my quest for another home birth or at the very least another VBAC.

They hang together in my closet, clumped to one end…but they are there. The empty tubs sit now in the storage room in our basement. If I have to put them away too soon, so be it, but today I defied the fear and the reminder of “what if” that has greeted me every morning.

Prayer

I don’t have anything profound to post today other than just asking for your prayers.
We are in the final days of packing up our house to move to a new community. It can be stressful and the chaos of maneuvering around boxes can be a bit overwhelming. It seems like everywhere I turn there is more stuff…even when I thought I had just packed that spot up.
We have been battling physical illness. I started this week with sore throat and fever (our son brought it home with him from camp a week or so ago). Now our 3rd son has been running and fever and not feeling well. I have developed an infection along my jaw line which is quite swollen and painful. It came on quickly and I went in this morning for some antibiotics so hopefully that will clear things up. If not, I will need to have it drained. Not an appealing proposition. So please pray for healing and health in these last few days of packing and moving.
It’s just exhausting. 🙂 I don’t think any of us have been sleeping well between the “not feeling good” and the “I should be doing” kinds of thoughts that start running through our minds at night. We need good restful nights of sleep.
The spiritual and emotional attacks have intensified the last week or so. Both Kerry and I have been feeling more attacked lately. I have struggled with thoughts of failure, being a burden and not fit for the role in which I have been called. Kerry too has struggled with similar thoughts and there have been times we’ve found ourselves short with the other person which is pretty uncommon for us. There have been some moments where past hurts, which have been forgiven and almost forgotten, have come crashing in out of the clear blue to take our minds off of what God has called us to do as a couple.
I think the changes ahead are really starting to hit our older two boys. Gabe especially has seemed to be taking more in and thinking some about “this might be the last time I do….here” kinds of things. It is hard to know how to help him because he’s not terribly verbal about it. I expect that Otto will become emotional on our actual moving day.
So again nothing profound today. But we would covet your prayers over the next few days and weeks as we finish packing, move and settle in to our new home.

Baggage

We will probably be moving in the next month or so, which means I am packing up our household of 6.
The last time we moved we only had 2 children and moved just a couple miles away so it wasn’t a huge “pack and drive” kind of thing, more like take a load in the car and hope nothing breaks. This time we’re moving significantly farther and with significantly more stuff.
I wish there was an easy way to go about it. I want to be organized about the whole process so if I need something I can find it easily when we get to our new house. I also want to make sure that I utilize the help I have when we get there. In my mind I envision having a “master plan” list that shows which rooms each bin/box goes into so we only have to touch it once. We’ll see…
As I’m packing I’m thinking too about baggage. The “stuff” that one carries around for years sometimes. Baggage shapes who we are. Sometimes baggage boosts us up to reach our goals, sometimes it weighs us down so much that we never move. Regardless though, we all have it.
I have been sorting through bins from my childhood and adolescence the last couple of days. There are times when I read notes to and from friends and I laugh. I laugh at the silliness and the nicknames we had for one another. I have found things that I wrote to help me cope with difficult times at home. I read love notes from boyfriends and the one boyfriend who became my husband. I cringe sometimes at the person I was. I feel wounds being re-opened because I remember the hurt, the anger I felt back then and if I’m not careful it can come sneaking back up and leak out into my life now. I can remember the black I felt so often years ago.
I have looked back the last couple of days, I have laughed at pictures from my high school years with my boys. I’ve told them stories of the friends I had and the things we did. We laughed at how young daddy and I looked when we started dating. But…I’ve kept the journals and poems I wrote tucked away for later when they’re older and I can explain what was going on in my life then. But I can look back and can see how I’ve grown because of and in spite of my baggage. I can see that God used those experiences and my baggage to shape who I am today.
Most of all though, I am reminded of His grace. I am reminded that even then, He was guiding my steps. Much of the baggage I carried early on, I have left by the wayside. It no longer attaches itself to me, it no longer adds weight to my shoulders. But this last week I was reminded just how much baggage I used to carry and how far I have walked away from it all.
And I am grateful.

Five Minute Friday — Story

On Fridays a group of folk meet here for a free writing exercise.

Just 5 minutes. On the prompt that’s posted here just after midnight early Friday morning. Want to know more – check out the Five Minute Friday back story over here.

And every week I feature a favorite Five Minute Friday post by one of you over there in my side bar. It never ceases to amaze me the creative collaboration that can come from all of us writing on just one word.

Want to join our favorite free writing exercise of the week? It’s easy peasy:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat on the prompt: “Story” with no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:::

Story…

My story.

My story is more than just a list of facts and statistics. It is about emotion and the shaping of who I am. My story has turns and twists and ups and downs. My story has chapters that only I know have been written. But most of all, as cliche’ as it sounds, I hope that my story has God written all over it.

I love how I can look back at my life and see the Author of my life weaving story lines together building my life piece by piece. I used to wonder when I was 8 and struggling to fit in, in a new town, why God moved our family. I can look back and see how He brought characters to my story into my life in that little town. How they helped shape me in ways only they could. I think of my friends and my teachers. The ones who made a difference and who were there listening to me and rooting me on from the sidelines. I hear them telling me “you can do it” and “I’m praying for you” when I think about the challenges that were brought my way in that small little town.

I can see how God brought me to that small town to meet my husband. And what a blessing that has been!

God is the author of my life. He directs my steps and I trust Him with the pen of my life. As I have learned that He is the one penning this tale, I have become eager to read what the next page holds and where the next chapter will take us. I am never so anxious though that I forget to savor the story on this page, this chapter, at this moment.

Psalm 119:35

35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,

For I delight in it.

Five Minute Friday — Path

For five minutes flat. No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.
Unscripted. Unedited. Real. All on the same prompt that I post here at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday.
Write and see what comes out. There’s no right or wrong.
It’s a #FiveMinuteFriday flash mob! <—click to tweet this!

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

::
OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:

Path…

A path lies before our family. We can’t see it and we don’t know where it’s taking us. We trust the One who made the path and who prods us along on this journey.
We can only see what He chooses to reveal, sometimes it stretches out miles in front of us and other times we can only see to the next bend, the next few feet.
In the last year this path has brought us to trials that we would have never imagined. We have lost 2 precious children in 6 months, but our God carried us through and we learned lessons along the way. We have experienced despair, abandonment, betrayal and incredible heartache at the hands of those who shouldn’t inflict such deep wounds. We have had to learn forgiveness, grow thick skin and learn to walk away all while still loving…because no matter what we do or say we can’t make them see.
And now our path has brought us through the future unknown. The “what next” as we wonder where the path leads. At this point in our lives, we can’t see more than a few feet ahead. But out of obedience we continue to walk together, waiting, discovering and learning. We trust that when we look back at the winding twisted path, that it will indeed be straight, it has been carved especially for us by the hand of God who can see exactly where we’re going. Our job is to be obedient His gentle prompting…”Keep walking”

Proverbs 3:6

In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Five Minute Friday — See

A Five Minute Writing Challenge <—click to tweet this!

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:
 

See…

Life experience gives you the opportunity to see things from another perspective. In the last 6 months I have lost two children in my second trimester. I have been given the opportunity to see life from the perspective of patient (instead of nurse), grieving parent (instead of blissfully ignorant), offended mother, hurt and wounded. But I have also seen compassion, caring and consideration in each of these situations.
I can see the love of Christ in each kind word spoken, each act of service that has been extended to me and my family. God is showing me that even when I feel alone, I am not alone. He has a purpose for bringing me on this journey. I don’t understand why, but I am beginning to see.
Sometimes when we are on a road like this it’s like hiking a trail in the mountains. We can only see a little ways ahead. We can’t see around the next bend. If we could, we wouldn’t keep walking because we wouldn’t like the rocks, trials or the steepness of the trail. But there is something about the unknown up ahead that beckons us to keep walking…to keep going and see what is in store. Sometimes it is more of the same, sometimes it is a soft shady place to rest, sometimes it is just another bend. But we can never see more than what we are meant to see. Life is much the same.
We see what we are meant to see. Never more, never less. Only what God wants in our focus, only what He reveals, urging us on to the next bend, to keep moving. To see.
 

Why?

That’s really the big question in all of this isn’t it? Why did it happen? Twice? To us? Why would a loving God let something so horrible happen?
Here is what I’ve come up with as I’ve tried to answer this question for myself.
First of all, it isn’t His fault. It is easy to blame Him for the bad things that happen, but truthfully when we blame God we are blaming a perfect and holy God who created a perfect and holy world for the unholy and sinful things we have done. When God created the world, it was perfect, it was sinless and it was beautiful. In fact, God says it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But it didn’t stay that way. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and follow the advice of Satan. Because we are all part of Adam’s race, we have been living with the consequences of his disobedience.The moment that sin happened, perfection became imperfection and “good” was replaced with “not so good”. Adam moved away from God’s perfection and took all of us with him.
But praise God that we have a way to be redeemed! The cool thing about it is that when we trust that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, paying that penalty we’re brought into a relationship with God better than the one Adam had! My husband preached a sermon on this very topic several weeks ago in Romans. You can listen to it here.
The truth is Satan is a thief (John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly). That’s his strategy, to steal the good and joy that God created, replacing it instead with false promises and destruction. Jesus rescued us from all of that by paying the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.) We still have hurt and pain because we’re still living in a fallen and sinful world. We know that God will win the war, but there is still a battle going on here on earth, we still live on an earth where the enemy has freedom.
So really, this whole thing happened because we live in a sinful and fallen world. That’s the big picture answer, but to be honest as a grieving mother that didn’t bring me much comfort. It seems too easy, not personal enough. I want to know why this happened to me.
I have decided and am still learning about why I have lost 2 children within 6 months, why I have been dealt this horrible blow to my “mommy ego” and my ability to carry a pregnancy. One of the reasons, I think, is reflected in 1 Peter 1: 6-7. “6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the  proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
God’s goal for my life isn’t for me to be without trial, easy going, nothing touches me. His goal for my life is that He will be reflected, I will become like Him in character and heart. God uses the pain and the hurt I have encountered to refine my character. To teach me grace, forgiveness, compassion, endurance and to develop a heart like His. In doing so, His work is able to be reflected in my life. It is to bring Him glory, not me. God is not the cause of my pain, He is not the orchestrator of my hurt, those things come from living in a sinful world. But He uses those things to bring about change in my life, in my heart, in my soul. He uses them for His purpose.
Do I know what that purpose is? Nope. I know that it will bring Him glory. I don’t know what big lesson I’m supposed to learn or what I’m supposed to do if anything other than be humble and be ready. My prayer since the loss of Lily is different from my prayer after Knox died. When Knox died I prayed desperately for the hurt to be taken away, I prayed that I would be able to have another child, I prayed that it wouldn’t happen again. My prayer this time has simply been “use me”. I want to continually be in a place where I can be used by God. I have prayed that God would use this experience, this grief, the lives of my children in Heaven to bring Him glory and that I would be ready, humble and obedient to do what He asks of me.
That is why this has happened.

I am not strong

I am just like you. Going through the loss of our son Knox in December and Lily this last weekend does not make me strong. It makes me reliant on God.
The loss of my children has brought me to my knees. It has shaken the very core of who I am in some respects and has made me question why God allowed this to happen to our family. Before I lost my children, I felt sorry for women who experienced loss  and wondered how they were even upright and talking. I couldn’t imagine what that mourning must be like and I was sure I could never endure it. When Knox died that little wall of safety during pregnancy came crashing down and completely shocked me. I grieved not only the loss of my child, but the loss of my security too.
When Lily died, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that there was that magical “safe” point in my pregnancy. I knew it could happen. But it doesn’t make the hurt any less. I still grieve the loss of my child, the rest of my pregnancy, her birth and watching her grow up. I grieve the loss of inhaling deep the smell of a new life, cuddling that tiny warm body and staring in awe at her beautiful face while she sleeps. In my selfishness, I even grieve the fact that I have spent about 6 months in the first trimester…the morning sickness, the food aversions, the just feeling rotten and I have nothing to show for it except the ashes of my children. It isn’t fair, I don’t understand it and I grieve.
The loss though, and my ability to endure it has nothing to do with me.

I am weak.

I have moments where I just don’t think I can go on. I get so angry at the unfairness of it all. I have struggled with bitterness towards women who got to have babies they didn’t want and complained about when they got pregnant. I have struggled with bitterness towards the joy of others. I am ashamed to say how many times I have wanted someone to hurt just as bad as I have. But my mourning shouldn’t take away someone else’s joy. My grief is my journey. It is a journey I am on as a mother, but I am not alone.
The loss of my children has brought me to the point where I realize there is no one left for me to rely on but God. Only God can share my grief, only God can help me reconcile my feelings and forgive. Only God can give me the strength to take one step after another. No one else. Not Kerry, with all his leadership, love and compassion can identify with what I feel down deep inside. Not my children or future pregnancies will redeem the feelings of bitterness and anger I have felt. Only God.

Psalm 121: 1-4

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

From where shall my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, He who keeps Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

My reliance on God is the only thing that has allowed me to continue on this journey. The help from my God, is what enables me to wake up every morning without crumbling under the tremendous weight of my grief.

Jesus has conquered the pain of this world. Because we still live in a fallen world full of sin, we still experience the pain and grief of losing loved ones. BUT…Jesus has conquered the world and all the pain in it. We may not experience freedom from that pain in this life, but we will certainly experience it when we die if we trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior.

John 16:33

33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

We will have tribulation, but we are to be courageous, we are to be peaceful because Jesus has overcome this world. That is where my hope comes from, that is where I draw strength to move from day to day. I still hurt, I still get angry, but I give those feelings to God. I ask for His strength. Not strength to make it through the month, the week or even the day. I ask for the strength I need to make it through the next hour, sometimes the next minute or next conversation. And He delivers. He doesn’t often give me more than what I need, but He never gives me less than what I need.

Psalm 16: 1-2

1 Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

I choose to walk daily trusting in God for the strength I need. God has a purpose for these challenges, I know that He is using this journey to make me into the woman He wants me to be. I surrender daily to His will, even if I don’t understand. It is His strength, not mine that allows me to make that choice and move forward one step at a time.

Journal entry for 5/18/12

This is the journal entry I made on Friday night. I’m still trying to find the right words to describe what I’m feeling this time. It feels, in a way, familiar  yet so very different.
May 18, 2012
It is so hard to believe this is happening again. I don’t feel as shocked, but I still feel heartbroken and wonder why. But the shock has  been replaced by numb this time. With Knox, we were so floored by the loss of a child. It was such a gut check. We’d had 4 healthy boys, although we’d had early losses, it came as such as shock to lose a baby at 15 weeks. When we got pregnant this time we were surprised but delighted. Our delight though, was slightly tainted because we knew that there was no “safe” time during a pregnancy. I was just starting to really let myself hope when we went for our first appointment with Dr. Growney. When we saw a heartbeat I was so happy I cried.
But…
I knew something was wrong. I could tell by what wasn’t being said by the sonographer. I hoped I was wrong. Until I got a call from my doctor setting up an appointment with maternal fetal medicine. But I still hoped. I hoped that it would be unnecessary and that our baby would be fine. While I was concerned about the CVS, I was peaceful that day. Even more hopeful because the NT measurement was down, there was no other edema and our baby looked “good”. I allowed myself to really hope and fall in love with the tiny profile image from the sonogram. I began to dream what the future might hold for our little one.
For 3 days.
When our results came back with Turner syndrome 3 days later I was shocked. A long shot at survival. 1% to be exact. But I still hoped, despite the genetic counselor’s dire outlook. Surely! Surely! We would not be asked to go down through the loss of another child in our second trimester. Surely, this baby would survive. But over the course of 4 days (from results to today), our baby died.
We heard her heartbeat for the last time on Tuesday morning before Kerry left for work. It was gone by Wednesday and today I sat with my doctor staring at her silent chest on a sonogram machine.
My hopes for a live birth, a normal birth, a redemptive birth were gone. I sit here tonight numb, disappointed and confused. Emotionally exhausted from the rollercoaster we’ve been on. Stunned a bit at the irony of it all. Today was Knox’s due date, today was the day we found out his sister died as well.
I don’t understand. I mourn this loss. I know have just as many children in heaven as I do here on earth. I have mourned the loss of as many children as I have rejoiced in their first cries. It seems so wrong and unfair. I don’t know why we’re here again. I was so hopeful for this baby, this pregnancy and this birth. My hope though, is due elsewhere. My hope must be in Christ. It is my God that I have to rely on, hope in and trust. What other choice do I have?
My peace and my hope can’t be based on my circumstances, my pregnancy, or the life of my child. My peace and hope must come from the person of Jesus and His presences in the midst of my pain and my grief. Afterall, He conquered it already on the cross.

Romans 1:17

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

 

May 18, 2012

Today is a significant day. Today was the day Knox was due. Today is also the day we found out our daughter Lillian Faith has died.
We have been praying for her from before her conception. We prayed fervently for her life, her growth and her soul. This week we were told she had a chromosomal defect called Turner Syndrome, meaning she was missing a sex chromosome. 99% of the babies with Turner syndrome die before they reach term. We were praying our daughter was in the 1% who survive.
We were hopeful because she wasn’t showing signs of distress, such as fluid build up around her organs or in her brain  and she didn’t seem to have heart dysrhythmias. We heard her heartbeat for the last time on Tuesday morning when Kerry and I listened together before he went to work.
I have “had a feeling” the last 2 days that something was amiss, but I dismissed it as paranoia and anxiety because I was approaching the same time in my pregnancy when I lost Knox. My very understanding doctor said I could come in any time to have heart tones checked and check on baby. I went in this morning while Kerry took the boys to the park.
We searched for the heart beat with the doppler initially and when we didn’t find it, we did a sonogram. There was our perfect baby, her only movement was with my pulse and no heart beat. My heart is broken. I feel so numb, so wronged and so empty.
We have elected to have an induction tomorrow morning. I could have surgery instead, but I want the opportunity to hold my daughter. I want the option to look on her face and not just an outline from a sonogram. My heart needs that. We ask for prayers for a quick, safe and uncomplicated birth. My birth with Knox was fraught with complications after he was born and I would like to avoid that again. I am also praying for compassionate nurses.
We don’t know medically why Knox died. We didn’t have chromosome studies (as we already had 4 healthy boys) and there was nothing obviously wrong after he was born. We know medically why Lillian has died, but it doesn’t make it easier. We don’t know why God has taken either of them, why we are walking through such sorrow. We don’t know any of it. But we have to trust that He has a purpose. I may not know it for years, I may never know why. But I believe God has a purpose. I believe that He knew the outcome of this pregnancy from the moment He created it, when He was knitting our daughter together in my womb.
My grief is deep, my pain is intense. I get angry at the injustice of it all. I am jealous of the mothers who will get to hold their babies today, while I will sit with empty arms for a second time in 6 months. It seems unfair, it seems cruel, it seems so very wrong. But we believe that God is faithful, we believe that He loves us and the children He has created. We believe that He will carry us through and give us strength.
I am reminded after Job suffered terrible losses of family and property. Job 1 20-22
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped21 He said,

“ Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.