Tag: miscarriage

Five Years Later

A friend of mine always gets a kick about how I keep track of time…

That was 5 years ago this spring.

That was before I started getting pregnant again.

That’s when we were at the theater.

That’s when I was Tweeting.

That’s back from our road days.

 

…and on, and on.

Last week, I started Tweeting again. I need to for my job, but in order to relearn the language, I started using my personal account again. Like all things social media, it’s a giant rabbit hole, not just of information, but of emotions.

I soon “saw” people I hadn’t seen in awhile and got caught up on one of their stories. Perhaps the most emotional one for me is the story of Sara Frankl, known on Twitter as “@gitzengirl.”

I read Sara’s blog for years. And in the middle of a crazy, turmoil-filled season in my life, she passed away after an agonizing battle with a rare disease.

I am delighted to see her legacy is moving forward, captured in a book and a foundation and the constant reminder to CHOOSE JOY.

Rod and Kel's Beach House

In five years, literally everything about my own life has changed. We moved two more times, and as of this July, we now live in our “BEACH HOUSE.” Through connections very divinely-ordered, we “have our own house” again, one mile from the ocean, with palm trees and golf carts and a salty breeze. It’s unbelievable…

kids Aug2016

We had three more children… two of them born to heaven, and one of them growing like a tall Carolina pine tree. I will never understand the baby that came to us (one year post-tubal-ligation) this January, and I may never quite get over saying goodbye to our Jesse at the end of February (2 years from the day of our first miscarriage), after seeing his perfect beating heart. But I am grateful for the new filter through which I view life… it’s always surprising, it’s always abundant, and we are never alone.

This year of 2016 has been full of the unexpected. We lost friends to moves, and gained friends who moved closer. We lost friends to disagreements, but gained others through grace. We lost a few dear friends to death, far too young in our eyes, but welcomed a few special little ones earthside. And I learned that redemption of sadness and loss maybe doesn’t look how we always thought it would.

our beach at full moon

And I am reminded that every story ends with an ellipses. There is always more to be told…

As I write this today my heart is full on many levels. I have missed coming to this place and sharing, but I know my life is so “abundant” right now that this is a privilege rather than an appointment. It’s one I will take. We never know what is coming tomorrow, so the life in our hearts should be expressed RIGHT NOW.

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Still

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!”

Huh?

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 Stillbirthday.com)

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.

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!

Happy Birthday…

4 babies
I am the mama of 4 babies.

The best I can guess, you would have been born today, or at least, some time this week.

I carried you for 6 weeks.

I knew you for 2 weeks.

And then, you were gone, before you were ever here.

I think of you daily, with sadness and wonder and gratefulness.

In 2 weeks, you gave us joy, love, and appreciation that we didn’t have before you.

In the 3rd week, through your passing, you gave us a new dream.

That dream is a different picture of our lives,
a more complete picture of our family.
It might have included you, but now, it includes your brother.

Thank you, sweet baby, Heavenly child, for what you gave to me.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more, but I am your mama, forever.