Tag: jack

Life After Loss

IMG_7650Let me put this disclaimer out there: I cannot even pretend to touch the subject of grief. It’s big and it’s personal, and from my standpoint, it suffers by comparison. In recent months, I have had friends who lost a infant, lost a young child, lost a husband. All these losses blow my mind and my heart. I can’t speak to them. I can only speak to my deepest grief thus far…

“I will trust and not be afraid. I will arise and go forth by His name.”

Recently, I had a conversation with some friends about a mutual friend who is pregnant. The theme of the conversation was fear. It was, “Yikes. That news is out there early… what if something bad happens?”

It is a reference I understood. When I first confirmed I was pregnant with Miranda (April 12, 2006 lives in infamy for me!), I had NO intention of waiting to share the news. In my spirit of storytelling, I’d certainly shared my monthly disappointments with people (& this was before Facebook). Why wouldn’t I share the good news? That whole “wait until the second trimester” thing was far from my mind.

Rod told me later how worried he had been. Miranda was my first pregnancy after a diagnosis of infertility. She was my first pregnancy ever. Chances were good (about 20%-ish) that we’d have a miscarriage. And in a moment of celebration at Aurelio’s Pizza, a moment I told few people about, there was spotting. At our first doctor’s appointment, after I had taken 1-2-3-4-5-6-SEVEN tests at home, there was a faint enough line to cause the doctor to put me through a blood test and a 24-hour wait.

You know what I did after we left that doctor appointment? Went to Babies R Us and made a registry.

Please know, it wasn’t because I was not scared. If I paused to think about it, I would have lost my mind with doubt and terror. I am a story gal – I have a pretty large and intense imagination. Because of this, I am at times forced to compartmentalize. It is all too easy for me to vividly imagine the worst, to put myself in different shoes. I have to selectively ignore possibilities sometimes. It’s not me being naive; it’s rescuing me from me.

As the story goes, the blood test was positive, the spotting was nothing, and Miranda Rose arrived in all her glory 7 months later (ironically, by the time I knew I was pregnant, I was almost in my 2nd trimester).

Perhaps that is why a miscarriage eight years later knocked me down so hard. Miscarriages, in my vague frame of reference, happened to young women, first-timers, people in accidents… not to older moms with previous perfect pregnancies. The idea of pregnancy #3 resolving that way was not something I had considered for one single second.

So what do you do when you get pregnant after that?

Let me back up. David, the baby we lost, was not planned. He was a huge, amazing surprise. Jack, however, is the only baby we ever “tried for” and got. With Miranda, I did not think I could get pregnant. With Kaity, who was conceived when Miranda was 6 months old, I was mentally in a place of “it happened once but it probably won’t happen again.” (Irony is the story of my life, y’all). With Jack, there were calendars and stuff. Apps, because it was 2014. In fact, I know the day he was made (I’m not gonna write about it here, but if you ask me, I will tell you something about Disney World and pixie dust…)

On the Sunday before Memorial Day in 2014, a new friend of mine announced on Facebook that she was pregnant. She also announced a due date in February 2015. Because I was tracking dates and possibilities so closely, I looked at that and said, “She must be like… 1 day pregnant!” I was in awe of her anyway, already a mama of 4, a champion, and a wealth of knowledge who’d already helped my confidence about pregnancy and birth and mama-ing. Anyway, I went to bed that night and dreamed of her. Nothing specific, just my friend and babies and a blur that held when I woke up (When a dream stays with me, I tend to know it has meaning). And so that day, I knew I was pregnant too.

Rod said I should wait to take a test. It was really early, and though he didn’t say it, he was really worried. We’d told ourselves we’d give it 2014 to get pregnant again, come what may, but I had already confessed how unsettling it was to think we wouldn’t have another baby. I did not want my childbearing chapter to end with a miscarriage…

I am normally pretty submissive to my husband, but that Tuesday, on the way to work, I stopped and bought a pregnancy test. My heart was racing. I needed to know (I’m an information addict). There was a five minute drive to the church. I played one song: Crystal Lewis, “Lord I Believe in You.” Crystal’s range is far higher than mine. I sang along anyway. I might have shouted.

“Lord, I believe in You
And I’ll keep my trust in You
Let the whole world say what they may
No one can take this joy away
Lord, I believe…”

Because once again, I found myself in a place where I needed to choose to believe. Even if this story didn’t play out how I wanted, Jesus loves me. Even if I don’t see a joyful ending or a hopeful next chapter, even if my childbearing years end with loss instead of life, God already performed amazing miracles – giving an infertile woman *3* babies, 2 on earth and 1 in Heaven. It would be ok.

And it was ok. I walked into work, stepped into the public bathroom in the empty lower level, took the test. I wish I could say I was surprised when it was POSITIVE, but somewhere in the midst of the last 9 years, from infertility diagnosis to two babies to miscarriage, I’d become a hopeFUL person instead of a cynical one. God had already confirmed in that dream about my sweet pregnant friend that I was pregnant too. I hung up and called Rod (who also wasn’t surprised I’d taken the test and who laughed with me on the phone), I called my mom (she is so used to me. Thank you for knowing me, Mama), and then I marched upstairs and told all my co-workers, who had loved me so well through my miscarriage (oh, you guys… I am so grateful for you).

I was something like… 3 weeks?… pregnant at that point. Common sense and a million pregnancy articles would have told me to wait to tell anyone. Crystal Lewis and amazing grace told me to SHOUT THAT OUT. God was giving me life after loss. LIFE.

I will tell you that the following weeks were a battle of my mind. There were some days of spotting, and even one night of some bleeding. There were moments I could not stop my imagination from running wild. There were days of not only fear but of guilt and grief – I still very much missed and mourned our David (I still do!).

uncle jack
Ultrasound/Celebration Meme by Allen :)

I had some amazing people pray with me (including an impromptu “call down the fire” at my Pampered Chef party. Thank you, Chris. I will never forget that, or the early baby gift of bedding you gave me). I had a sweet surrogate dad send me Bible verses and songs right when I needed them most (Junie. I love you!) I had a prophecy of a pea-pod, sprouting forth with life (Kelli! Thank you, thank you <3 ). I had a playlist I put together of songs to affirm me, which I listened to over and over again. I had a husband, my champion, tell me over and over again that no matter what, I was going to be ok.

On June 26, I had an ultrasound scheduled.  For the 24 hours before, my heart raced and my stomach churned. I was relieved that my girls were in Illinois with my parents. I flashed myself forward to scenarios of celebration as well as grief. I prayed and declared victory and life. I thanked God for the person inside me, even as I held that little person at a distance.

My first ultrasound with David had been a nightmare. At first, Dr. M. couldn’t find an embryo at all (turns out my uterus was tilted). Then there was a baby who was smaller than he should have been and whose heartbeat wasn’t visible (in the years since I’d had Kaity, that process had changed. Before, we were only waiting to hear the heartbeat and that wasn’t until 10-12 weeks). I was confused and angry and quite quickly broken.

This time… oh wow. I have told people about the song in my head in those seconds leading to the ultrasound:

“We wait for you.
We wait for you.
We wait for you to fill the room.”

The song talks about the Holy Spirit. I was, of course, waiting to see my baby, but it was both of them who greeted me the moment I looked at the screen. Now an ultrasound veteran, I immediately saw a heartbeat flashing beautifully. I immediately felt the reassuring presence of a life-giving God fill the room. I cried and said, “Thank You, Jesus” over and over again.

I was something like 8-9 weeks along at that point. I could go calculate but I don’t care anymore. There was still a long way to go in my pregnancy, and there would still be battles of fear and worry to face, but I declared life.

And I would do it all over again.

To the friends I referenced earlier, who were sweetly concerned about sharing baby news too soon, I said, {paraphrase, because I am rarely eloquent on the fly}, “Sometimes you have to battle fear by calling it out. For me, I had to declare life quickly and loudly and to everyone.”

Our faith does not change situations all by itself. I could have just as easily lost another baby. In fact, that friend, the one who I dreamed about, lost one of her precious twins, born 6 days before my Jack, at 9 weeks old. Loss and life are intermingled in ways we cannot even fathom. But God made us to persevere, to live, and to love even through the darkest tragedies. When I see my friend smiling at her children, functioning through her grief, I am in awe of her spirit and of the God who sustains her.

There will always be loss. But there will always, always be life on the other side.



Redemption Child

One year ago today, 3 months after a devastating miscarriage, I suspected I was pregnant again. This week, I am revisiting the journey of carrying and birthing our Jackson Cash – my redemption child!

redemptionchild1Unmitigated joy. It’s not a feeling I am used to, and yet, when I am around my baby son, whether he is eating, sleeping, chatting, smiling, or just looking at me with his wide, blue eyes, I feel it bubbling up.

It’s not that I love him more than my other children; of course not. But his timing, his entrance into our world, well, it’s so easy for me to see God’s hand in it.

I have probably said before how much having another child surprised us. The roller coaster of shock, elation, and heartbreak of our miscarriage last year changed me forever. It changed my perspective on mothering, family, my career aspirations, my belief in God and His works, my bond to other women, my pregnancy experience… everything.

But carrying and having Jack changed me, too. In the years between Kaity’s birth and his (6 years, 11 months…), I was often, as my Gramma H. would say, “running myself down.” I didn’t like my body. I wasn’t losing weight. I didn’t nurse the girls long enough. I should have pushed harder for natural births. I didn’t enjoy them enough. I should have taken more time. I should have planned my job moves differently. I should homeschool. I should do this, this, this, and this. AND, even better, “This person did this better. This person looks better. If i was like that person, my kids/family/body would be ______.”

What a lost cause that thinking is.

During my pregnancy with Jack, I met amazing women, mamas, nurses, midwives, birth workers, who encouraged me personally or by simply sharing their stories. Through those months – and the four following, I’ve been able to make peace with my C-section births, my ability to breastfeed, my level of patience with my children, and my role as a mama, a stepmom, a grandma, a wife, and a sister in the community of mothers.

In a nutshell, God sent me a whole lot with my newest, my last baby. While the loss of David last year brought me so many questions, the birth of Jack brought me affirmations.

God used Jack to make me listen to Him saying…
You are enough.
You are new.
You are forgiven.
You are strong.
You are beautiful.
You are young.
You are patient.
You are kind.
You belong.
You give love.
Let my joy radiate from you. Point to your son and say, “The Lord is good. His promises are real and true. I have been redeemed.”

As a result: I don’t feel uneasy when I have to nurse my son in public; I feel confident. I don’t feel shameful about the extra pounds around my waist or the gray hairs sprouting more frequently; I feel strong. I don’t wonder if my husband is really attracted to me or whether my kids really adore me; I feel cherished. I don’t feel like I missed the boat in my career; I feel like my whole future is still unfolding, and like I am showing a smart, balanced, and loving example to my children.

I was these things all along, though. I was supposed to see them that way. And it dawns on me that God could have used any number of things to clarify my vision. I am very grateful that He chose as His means of attention-getting a pure bundle of cuddly joy, one who elicits smiles in a hundred different ways, one made to fit perfectly into the curve of my chest and my heart. God sent Jack to make me a better listener…

And oh, the things I am hearing! :)

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
 Romans 4:21

to be continued!

The Best Desires (2014)

When are you going to write again?

Rod and Kelly 12-21-13I’ve been asked over and over. I think this year is the least I have written in many. It’s not from a lack of content or desire. Maybe, if anything, it’s been that my heart and my head are too full.

This time last year, we were looking to a “small” set of changes. Rod was beginning a new job, one he’d wanted for awhile, one that would be more travel for him but more financial stability for us. Our oldest had just gotten married. Our youngest two were starting to eat from the big dinner plates… you know… not babies anymore. In our heads, we planned “big kid” trips (horseback riding, maybe New York city) and looked forward to a more mature family life. No. For real. Those were our “plans.”

A surprise positive pregnancy test on February 5th changed the essence of those plans, the essence of our future.

An even more surprising miscarriage three weeks later changed the essence of how I see everything.

fly_away_homeFour years ago right now, I learned what it means to “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) In youthfulness, I thought it was as simple as… trust God, praise God, yada yada, and He will give you what you want. And this very day 4 years ago, after our house had been for sale since May and we planned with all our hearts to move to Nashville, I finished reading a novel that had nothing to do with anything. It was an enjoyable read in which the main characters retreated to Cape Cod during a time of crisis. I closed the cover and asked Rod,

Why can’t we live at the beach?

And The Next Day, we had a lunch meeting that changed the course of our plans, our move, our lives.

Now, when I think of God giving me the desires of my heart, it’s more like, “I trust You, God. Go on ahead.” And then I see His hand wave over me, and the plans He has for me, the ones that far surpass my own, take root and grow in my heart. His desires become mine. He GIVES me the desires He hopes I will strive for when I open myself to Him.

That surprise positive test in February changed everything. It changed our dreams of “12 more years until we’re alone” and “When will the kids be old enough to take on a cruise and not be pains in the butt?” to “Our family isn’t done yet.” So we gave ourselves this year to “try”…

This wasn’t a light decision, folks.

– THE DAY the doctor told me our baby had no heartbeat was the day our son and daughter-in-law told us they were pretty sure a baby of their own was on the way.KK turns 6 (Also happened to be KK’s 6th birthday…!)
– Rod was about to turn 50.
– I had just, just weeks before, after years of waffling, made peace with not having any additional kids. And I was finally getting in shape again…

But God used that sweet baby who was ours on earth for such a short time to plant more desires. In spite of all the reasons why we shouldn’t have wanted more kids, we did.

And in spite of a report in 2004 that we’d “probably never be able to get pregnant,” I got pregnant twice in a matter of 5 months.

Jack's first pictureSeeing our baby boy on the ultrasound screen for the first time, in June, was one of the greatest moments of my life. The ultrasound we had in February was a nightmare in so many ways. But when the screen shined with “new” baby’s little discernible body, his arms waving all around (they haven’t stopped), I felt Jesus fill the room. It was a miracle!

Life after death is a specific joy. And while it doesn’t mean I haven’t occasionally struggled with fear, stress, discomfort, or even a bit of physical misery, the prospect of having our Jack, the preparation for his arrival, the peace in knowing that this will complete our family, is nothing short of amazing.

Poppy, Gigi, and NoraMeanwhile – yes, meanwhile – there is more to life. This year, we have seen our “big kids” grow and prosper in their careers. We were given the gift of Nora, our first grandchild, who is healthy, peaceful, and a sweet, blissful blessing.

Our little girls have continued to go with the flow. They mourned the loss of our February baby (David) with us. They’ve coped with their Mama’s abilities being hampered much of this year…and let me take naps when I needed them! And they have blossomed more into their awesome selves. One of my most treasured memories of this year will be the road trip the 3 of us took to Chicagoland in June. We made it straight through together and had fun stopping for caffeine, listening to a favorite book, and getting through a torrential Midwest thunderstorm. I can’t wait to see them being Big Sisters together.

I started this year planning to go back to school for a ministry degree… taking on a second part time job as an editor…losing my last grandparent when Gramma passed on my 37th birthday. It’s been a weird year. I guess, in many ways, I’ve been reset. Just when I was feeling my strongest and most confident, I find myself most vulnerable (because at the end of pregnancy… oy! I can barely put my own pants on!) and quite unsure about how things will look in 2015.

road trip!But… I know I am living out the right plans, the best desires for me… because God put them here.

Some things have not changed this year. My husband’s hand is still readily in mine, whether it’s over the phone from a distant hotel room, a look shared between us while he ministers with his bass guitar on the church stage and I in the altar praying, next to me in the minivan we said we’d never have, or while we nuzzle our girls or little Nora together. My feet still love being in the sand. My home is still an open place for the friends I feel I finally made this year, the old ones who come to visit, and the new ones in the future.

Not long after I purged our cabinets of little plastic plates and sippy cups, we have crazy new things in our house, like a crib and a high chair and lots of onesies and even cloth diapers. It makes me laugh. We are not living the life I thought we’d be living on the cusp of 2015.

We are living a perfectly-designed adventure that I would not trade.

Happy New Year!


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