elizabeth-ii-quote-grief-is-the-price-we-pay-for-loveThere are moments in life that that are so life-changing, we will never forget them.

I remember the moments of discovery for each of my pregnancies… not just the positive test moments, but the “Hmmm… could it be…?” moments leading to those double lines. Having been diagnosed infertile, the possibility of a pregnancy was always one that made me as wary as it did excited. The moments of confirmed fertility…miraculous YESes in my life are among my favorite memories.

And of course, the moments I first saw and held my babies – there is nothing that compares.

The moments of loss – the stages in which I learned that our baby David was never going to be in our arms – are equally vivid for me. I still remember the moments in which my doctor couldn’t find the baby, then couldn’t find the heartbeat… the moment of realization that her words were equaling “miscarriage”… the moments of manic wavering between hope and despair over a very long weekend… the moments of confirmation, of bleeding, of hoping it was over… the moments of pre-op as I prepared to give birth in a way I never wanted to.

David was born. He was not born alive. He was likely not in a recognizable form. I never saw more than a blurry sac on a screen. I never got a picture. I don’t know if his eyes would have been brown or blue or quite frankly, if he was a he. But he was once alive, and he was born.

Some of the moments in life I felt most alone were the moments preparing for my D&C. On February 26, 2014, I sat in a curtained room alone. It was quiet. A worker who apparently did not read my chart carefully administered a pregnancy test. I didn’t have the wherewithal to say, “Are you freaking kidding me?” or even, “Is that necessary?” I did have the presence of mind to say this to one of the nurses as she prepared my IV:

When you stick me, I am going to start crying. It won’t be because of the needle.

I’d been through a few medical procedures alone before. When my appendix was ruptured in 2003 and we had been trying to get pregnant since our wedding, the IV for my CT scan set me off. They had given me a pregnancy test and I knew if it must have been negative. I was 26 and probably still looked 18 and that poor tech was so confused when my tears started flowing. He thought I was afraid of the needle.

Almost exactly a year later, my cycle of fertility testing ended with a laporoscopic surgery. In my optimistic form, I had people praying like crazy the night before that I would be miraculously pregnant and the surgery wouldn’t be necessary. Once again, a test was administered, no results were verbalized, and when the IV got started. I cried. Those poor nurses thought I was nuts. I told them I wanted to be pregnant and they said, “Honey, that’s why you’re here…” Then they out some happy juice in that tube and that was that.

So, something about the pre-op procedure, being secluded from my partner, and the IV confirming that this is really happening makes me cry.

Fast forward to 2015, the morning of my planned C-section for Jack. I felt like a pro. I was in that same pre-op area for the 3rd time in 3 years (there had been another procedure before my miscarriage). I felt excited and confident. I asked if Rod could be with me, and they allowed him. There were no tears.

My birth story for Jack is still being written, but here is the take-away. Birth is hard, and so are surgeries. I had a pretty routine 3rd-repeat C-section with Jack, and also had a tubal ligation. But having your insides cut up and sewn back together is what it is, and so is birth, and there are many emotions that accompany all those things.

I decided in the hospital after Jack was born that I didn’t want any moms going through any kind of birth to feel voiceless or alone, but in particular, moms experiencing surgeries, fear from past experiences, or loss.

Because I have worked in ministry for most of the past eight years and on a church staff for the last 3.5, I figured, “Eh. I will talk to some people in the hospital and see if I can’t be some kind of maternity chaplain.”

And then, I said that to a birth worker in my community, and her immediate response was, “OH! You should be a bereavement doula!”


How can I be a doula when I have only birthed via C-section?
What the heck is a bereavement doula?
Why in the world would I take a certification course now, after having my 3rd child?

I am not sure I have all the definite answers to those questions yet, but they are evolving, and I will say, I am following a path that seems to have been ordained for me long ago –

  • when I was an adolescent having nightmares about infertility
  • when I was vicariously grieving for acquaintances, friends, strangers, celebrities, and fictional characters grieving from miscarriages and stillbirths and sudden infant death
  • when as soon as, maybe even before, I recovered from my miscarriage, people crossed my path who just needed someone to listen and support and understand
  • when I realized that Myrtle Beach has a fundamental little tribe who supports mamas in all seasons and I have might have something unique to offer

So this is my “announcement.”

StillBirthday UniversityWhat started as a little Facebook page inspired by my wise and wordsmithing daughter will soon be Three Dots Birth Support Services, or something like that.

And through the amazing design of Stillbirthday, by this fall, I will be certified as a doula for births with all outcomes and plan to go on to certify as a chaplain.

As I read through the course material and finished my first exam today, I wonder not how I can handle the workload but how my heart can hold the weight. Every 20 minutes in the United States, a baby is stillborn and a family is devastated. Forty percent of pregnancies in the U.S. end in pregnancy, equaling 600,000 per year. (all stats from

I had one that completely knocked me out. I cannot imagine multiplying that heartbreak by such staggering numbers.

I can only hope that one at a time, I can help mothers, and with my husband on board, families, get to the other side of those still, fearful, devastating moments of loss.

I want every mama to know that her baby matters.

My story wasn’t over, and neither is theirs, and neither is yours.

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Four years and forever

A few lifetimes ago, in the fall of 2008, Rod and I were parents of four kids – two in high school, two in diapers, we would count.1924028_107157033521_2892837_n

Based on prompting from friends, our environment, and the Holy Spirit, we decided to have another baby. We named it Branson; short for Branson Gospel Music Convention.

During three and a half years of learning something new every day, many wins and losses, meeting all kinds of people (from pianist and cake-maker extraordinaire Dino to the Oak Ridge Boys, from Branson innkeepers who liked us to gospel bloggers who didn’t), working our tails off, and chasing with all our energy the dreams we felt God had given us, we were the proud parents of something that felt groundbreaking: a Spirit-led southern-ish gospel event that sought to unite and encourage artists and minister to the audience.

It felt like the world to us. And then all of a sudden, it was over.

The third convention, renamed “Revival” and moved to a perfect location, was a peak in several ways. We left that week feeling victorious and energized and grateful.

But it also come on the throes of Rod and I moving our family to Myrtle Beach, SC for what we though would be a “Branson every day” kind of experience that never actually came to be. So not long after, those feelings were replaced by fear, confusion, and defeat.

Rod hasn’t “had a concert” per se since that year. Our bus is gone. Currently, the only events we promote are dinners and holidays at our house. Life sure changed quickly.

Even with the ease of Facebook, we lost touch even with some of our closest of friends. While logic and embroidered pillows and memes tell us that “Friends come into your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime,” without so many people’s voices in my circle, I just felt alone.

And also, forgotten.

When we put our whole selves into obeying God, because we are human, we also have expectations. Part of me expected that once we started down the path of full time ministry/concert promotion/working in the music industry, we would remain there. It gave me a severe case of whiplash and then probably depression when I realized we did not. We were not. And we don’t know if we will go “back.”

But thanks to our loving Father, there are markers. There are monuments. There are reasons to believe that those three and a half years of toil and investment were not in vain.


If you are reading this, you are likely a reason.

– Because some people met their future spouses at Branson GMR.
– Some people made true, lifelong friends.
– Some people made business connections and therefore gained bookings, studio dates, and invitations.
– Some people were ministered to in such a way that the very direction of their lives changed – and the funny part of this is that most of those occurrences didn’t happen on stage, but behind it, in the exhibit hall, or in the parking lot.
– Some people were called into ministry, were set free from addictions, guilt, or oppression, or were healed.

This past week, as we mark 4 years since our last Branson GMR or even since we stepped foot in the town we loved, God has seen fit to remind me very tangibly about our time there and what it meant and what it means.

Every once in awhile, I feel so sad that it’s over. And I wonder if it mattered.

And just like the loving Father He is, God reminds me: it wasn’t about fortune (LOL!), fame (haha!), or anything fleeting. It was about uniting a family for a season and sending them back out…

It means the same things we dreamed about before we ever got to Branson, the same things we talked about in interviews and from the stage and in those hallways, and the same thing we still strive for now:


Connection with other people, encouraging one another in the grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.

Thank you to the people who have remained in our lives, whether for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. Thank you to the ones who share where you are and who you are with, because there are days, without you knowing, that you bless me because I look and say, “They met in Branson.” Thank you for those who encourage the Burton family as we still chase after God in a variety of ways, by raising our babies, working in our local church, opening our home as a safe haven of fellowship, and constantly asking Him, “What is next?”

Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity of a lifetime that, in spite of all odds, existed in Branson from 2009-2011.

May the spotlight continue to shine on that message. Amen.


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On flags and opinions

facebook opinionsEvery once in a while, in this social media age when we’ve all become “published writers,” I have to sit back and ask myself whether the “world” really needs to know my public statement on any one particular issue.

When it comes to some issues in particular, I do steer clear of the SYNDROME of posting my opinion. The fact is, many of the issues that incite people are much more nuanced than they are given credit for in statuses or 140-character posts that have become the bumper-sticker theology of our time.
Mostly, I can only take a platform based on who I am:
I believe in Jesus.
I believe in love.
I believe in the Bible as God’s holy word.
I believe most people have mostly pure intentions and don’t set out to hurt others.
I believe humans make mistakes – in interpreting God’s word, in their own behavior, and in how we treat others with whom we disagree.
So when it comes to the confederate flag or gay marriage or gun laws, I do have very strong opinions. I am pigeonholed to some expectations because of the labels assigned to me. I don’t post about my opinions. I do, however, enjoy conversations about them.
I will say this today:
The law of the land and the law of God are two different things. I find it an exercise in futility to expect one to mirror the other.
– The law of God was FULFILLED by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No man or woman could live up to the law as it was handed down. That is why we need Jesus.
– God is God, and He doesn’t need me or anyone else to “defend” Him. Through His son Jesus, He instructed me to love Him and love my neighbors.
Behind the flags – with blue crisscrosses or rainbows on them – are peopleEach of those flags represents different life experiences. We cannot assume to know the hearts behind a cause or a symbol. To most southern people I know, the confederate flag does not equal hate. And to every gay person I know, the right to be married is not a rebellion or a conspiracy.
I wish before people MADE THEIR OPINIONS KNOWN, they would consider the value and affect of said opinion. Does it show love? Does it help anyone? Indeed, does it matter?
The best way we can affect change in our world, regardless of our opinions, is by our behavior and our treatment of others. Words are words. They can tear down or build up, but at the end of the day, it is our actions that speak.
Let me speak love.

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Last Time Mom

take pictures in your heart

In the American birth industry (oy ve, it is an industry) a woman who gives birth over the age of 34 is considered “advanced maternal age.” Some statistics say that 20% of babies are now born to women over 40.

So there are a lot of “us.”

I first encountered “AMA” after the horrible appointment in February 2014 when I was told my baby had no heartbeat. My doctor wanted me to schedule a D&C that day, but since I was experiencing no miscarriage symptoms, I chose to wait.

Note: I do not regret this at all. Based on research, it was very possible that my tilted uterus was obscuring the view of the fetus and things were fine. However, God “helped” me out in that 5 days later, I began experiencing pretty severe symptoms along with another ultrasound that showed the fetus was shrinking. I inevitably had a D&C, but I would have never rushed to one.

Anyway, when she sent me away with follow-up paperwork that day, I had to look up everything it had said: “Threatened AB” (which means threatened abortion – potential miscarriage), “AMA.” I am not sure what my age had to do with anything since I had never had a miscarriage nor had any pregnancy complications, but alas. I was labeled.

My granddaughter Nora and me
My granddaughter Nora and me

It became clear to me early in my subsequent pregnancy with Jack exactly what AMA meant. You want to know my unprofessional summation?
It’s a marketing scheme. Surprise! We are in ‘murica, where one of the most natural processes on Earth has been turned into a sanitized and overly-scrutinized-by-insurance choose-your-own-adventure with very little adventure unless women happen to know they can take ownership of their own stories (that’s another post). And being AMA did not mean a darn thing in terms of my pre-natal care or experience, other than I was offered and encouraged to have optional genetic testing done, including an amniocentesis, to determine whether my baby had any genetic defects… even though there was no history in my or my husband’s family to put us at risk for anything other than Celiac disease, dry skin, and chronic stubbornness. 

I declined all the tests.

Please understand my heart. I understand and empathize with why these tests are valuable to some people. I have heard the song “I Will Carry You.” I personally know people who experienced the tragic outcome of trisomy 13 or 18 or have had babies born who needed immediate critical care. But I also know people who did everything preventative in their power, tests, precautions, and were still surprised by a diagnosis in their child that was devastating. And even when we are “prepared” with knowledge, what can we really do in instances of tragedy?

So my heart here was… We are going to get the child we are meant to get. He or she might be in perfect health or might have something severely wrong. Either way, we will care for that child with all the love and resources we can. We would not terminate a pregnancy based on genetic testing because basically, all of them have more than a small chance of being wrong.

Thankfully (and I thank God daily), Jack progressed beautifully. I had a bonus ultrasound at 16 weeks which I thought was only going to tell us his gender (he was, ahem, All Boy), but when the tech took us through indications and markers that I didn’t even know existed and showed us that we essentially had nothing to worry about, my exhale turned into tears pretty quickly.

In a previous post, I mentioned how I compartmentalize my fears. Yeah. I had done that. And I didn’t realize how scared I was that my age or some other factor was adverse affecting my baby until I was told that he was fine.

A few weeks before my due date, I felt like the oldest woman in the world!
A few weeks before my due date, I felt like the oldest woman in the world!

So what good was it to be AMA? Well, here are my thoughts:
A few weeks before my due date, I felt like the oldest woman in the world!

– as a 37 year old with 2 previous births, a miscarriage, and having raised 2 step kids from puberty to adulthood, I had…well, the wisdom of experience. I don’t ever consider myself wise, but at this point in life, I do consider myself experienced. So when other expecting mothers (and I was blessed to be around a lot of them while pregnant with Jack) had concerns and questions, I was able to be That Mom… the Titus Mom…not the voice of expertise, but the voice of experience and encouragement.

I was very clear about what I did not want. I did not want any interventions I didn’t need. I didn’t want to gain unnecessary weight. I didn’t want my baby to have bottles or a schedule.  I didn’t want to fuss with things that didn’t matter or try to take care of anyone outside my immediate family. These were all things I did differently when my girls were born… I had an unnecessarily clinical aftermath of Kaity’s birth (and probably an unnecessary C-section, but that is also another post), I had a hard time losing weight, I didn’t know enough about breastfeeding and gave up for the wrong reasons, and I tried much too hard to take care of more than what or whom I needed to.

I also knew what I wanted. A gentle C-section (thank God this was a readily available process at our local hospital and with my preferred doctor). On-demand, relaxed breastfeeding. Not too many visitors (I lost on this one a little, but only because our baby is so loved).

– I knew what to expect. This mattered on so many levels. I knew what to ask for during all the pre and post operation procedures. (Rod got to be with me during most of my pre-op, not because I was nervous, but because it is boring! If only I had asked for this when I was getting my D&C..)! I knew how to cope with the surgical pain. But more importantly… I knew time was going to fly. I knew Jack would look like a different person in a week. I knew those blurry, mostly-sleepless first nights would not last forever. I knew it was just as important to take pictures with my heart and mind as it was with my camera. And so I savored every single moment. And I still am.

I can espouse on and on about the privilege of being a “last time mom.” I guess that’s a more applicable and less smart-aleck way of reusing the term Advanced Maternal Age. Even though my hair is graying and 40 is only a year and a half away, I don’t feel advanced about much of anything. The longer we are raising kids, the more questions parenting brings. That is why it is important to be a community that shares with love and encouragement. I hope as a mama and stepmom and grandma (this still makes me smile and shake my head), that is what I will always do.

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