August 18, 2015

Always Enough

A little while back, a friend said to me that she thought it was fitting that I shared our pregnancy news through my blog.  “How come?” I asked.  The gist of what she shared was that the blog had documented so much of our journey and this baby is a continuation of the same journey, so it seemed only right to tell the story behind this baby coming to be.

“You get me,”  I told her.  Because she was so right and that is exactly why it did not feel right to just announce it on social media.  Even for just my own memory, it felt important to document how we got here.

Somewhere along the way, these past six years have become less about having a baby and more about who I believe God is and how much I trust Him.  God used my desire to have a baby and the pain and loss that came out of that to show me more of Himself and to allow me to experience more of Him in real and tender ways.

He’s still doing that.

This baby’s life is a tangible marker of the work God has done in me these years.  And though I’ve no idea what the outcome will be, I trust Him.

I know this baby’s life can end at anytime because sometimes stepping out in faith still ends in losing and dying.  Sometimes it still means your heart is crushed and your hope crumbles...momentarily.

Maybe it’s because I’ve lost so much that I fear it less.  

I know what it’s like to to see and hold death; to walk in the day but feel consumed by the dark; to feel out of control and consumed by grief, jealousy, anger, you name it; to wonder if you’ll be okay and will make it another day; to loathe laughter and celebrations; and hardest of all, to wonder if there is a God who sees you.

I know these things intimately well and yet I can tell you with a sincere heart that losing and dying are actually all counted as gain. 

It doesn’t mean that our pain is any less painful, or our longing any less agonizing.  It just means that the pain and loss we experience on this side of heaven are not the end of us or what He’s doing in and around us.

After all our losses, I know something for certain: we can only see the page that we are on in the story of our lives.  But God- in His supreme wisdom, never-ending love for us- knows the whole book because He is the Author of our lives.  And He is an Author to be trusted.

My book is still turning pages and though I’d like nothing more than to skip ahead to the next chapter to see how this will turn out, I trust Him.  And that is enough.  

Somehow, it’s always enough.

August 8, 2015

The Way We Mend

I can recall two times in the last year that I very clearly heard God’s voice.  Both times I was in crowded places, panning the room.  Both times I saw a mother with an infant.  And both times, God said “I’m not done yet.”

I tucked those moments away in my heart.  I knew that Jason wanted to try again for another baby and it seemed the logical time to start trying again, but I didn’t feel ready to start this journey again. 

Several months ago I began feeling anxiety and fear at the thought of being pregnant again.  I felt certain I had some level of PTSD because I’d break out in a sweat and have heart palpitations just thinking about it.  And if I heard about someone having a miscarriage, I’d experience their loss as if it was my own.

I felt gripped by fear and too afraid to move forward.  Staying put was what felt safe.

I spoke to Jason and several friends about this and finally decided to see my counselor.  In the back drop of the time that passed were the words God said to me, which propelled me forward, willing to enter the dark places of my heart and mind again in pursuit of overcoming this crippling fear.

As I kept considering what God said to me- “I’m not done yet”- I didn’t believe He was promising us another baby.  I believe He was foretelling the work He still wanted to do in me, knowing that if I was going to get to that place of trying again, it was going to be an act of obedience and a step of faith on my part in response to the heart work He wanted to do in me.  

I believe He wanted to do some mending.

Sometime in May I felt ready as I ever would be to try for another baby and in June we found out I was pregnant.  God acted fast!

Shortly after finding out our news, we went in for an early ultrasound to see if things were progressing and much to our delight we saw a heartbeat.  We went back two weeks later for another ultrasound and while we did still see a heartbeat, it appeared our baby only grew a week in those two weeks.

Our hearts sank a little and the midwife told us to be cautiously optimistic and to come back in a week to see if anything changed....for the better or for worse.

I did what anyone would do- I researched reasons why slow growth like that could happen and there were plenty of benign reasons, but there were also fatal ones.

I often thought about what would happen and would play out each scenario in my mind in lame attempts to prepare my heart for what would seem likely to happen based on my history.

More than anything, I prayed.  I did not plea or beg for this baby’s life.  I did not make bargains with God.  I just told Him over and over that I trusted the outcome of this baby’s life to Him; that I knew that He knew best; and that I believed He was unceasingly working for our good.

We went back for another ultrasound this week and got great news!  Our little baby was measuring right on time and the heartbeat was strong.

In the dark of the room with just a glow of the screen that displayed a bouncy baby, I cried.  I cried because I was happy, of course, but mostly I cried because I saw the gift that came out of my act of obedience and step of faith.  This is the God I serve- He is faithful to do the work if I am willing to trust Him.

So we are expecting another baby in March and our hearts are full!  

And I think this is the way we continue to mend.

It’s the way we mend 
We tear it all down and we’ll start it again 
And I don’t know how but you find me where we begin 
And that’s just the way, the way that we mend

"The Way We Mend" by Bebo Norman

March 24, 2015

Mothering a Miracle

My son is a miracle.  

A few years ago I was told that each time I became pregnant I had a 30-40% chance of carrying to term (the average woman’s chances are 80%).  So with numbers like that and after six miscarriages, I am confidently calling him a miracle.

The whole time I was pregnant I was convinced he would die.  Each appointment to hear his heartbeat was one that I dreaded and forget about the 20 week ultrasound.....I near had an anxiety attack were it not for my coaching myself to remain as calm as possible for my baby’s sake.

When all you know is death and disappointment, it’s hard to believe that life and happiness will come.

But they did.  Life was born from me and I held him as I looked around the room and told everyone repeatedly, “This is my baby!”  They all nodded because they knew where we had been and they knew this boy was long-awaited.

I was the mother of the miracle baby that day.  

Fast-forward 18 months and now I am the mother of an active, curious, funny, and determined little boy.  He’s sweet when he wants to be and a pistol the rest of the time.  He makes my brain tired, my knees bruised, and my heart swell with love for him.  Because even when he is defiant and drives me nuts, I adore him and would do anything for him.

We are what feels like eons away from those first few weeks where everything was so new and sacred and the glow of having our miracle boy home with us was still as bright as the day he was born.  Now we are settled into the same hum-hum of parenting a toddler like so many others.

But there is still something so different from us and so many others.  And the difference is that we almost did not get here.  That we have a son almost did not happen.

But we are here and he did happen and sometimes I ask myself and GOD, “How do I mother a miracle?”  I am learning the answer is that I don’t do anything different than anyone else.  

But what is different is me.

Sometimes in the morning when I walk into his room and he reaches for me all warm from sleep with a smile on his silly face, my heart skips a beat because HIS mercies are new every morning and joy comes in the morning and I am swimming in that sea of provision.  

And I almost didn’t get here.  

Sometimes when he is throwing a tantrum I sit back and watch him because I am in awe of his lung capacity and the way his legs kick while his arms pump up and down, all while releasing a flood of tears.  I can’t be upset or annoyed because I am too busy marveling at this creation that was born out of me. 

And I almost did not get to see this.

Sometimes at night when I am holding his slow-breathing body and running my fingers through his hair, I cry because now the weight that sits on my chest is him and not longing.

And I almost never had this.

In those moments- in the quiet of my heart and in humble gratitude to HIM- I thank GOD for my miracle boy.  That HE chose me to mother him is something I will never get over.

A friend was once said that my son must be so strong and a real fighter because he did what six other babies weren’t able to do- he grew and grew and grew until he was born pink and loud and he amazed us all.

And he still does.

September 9, 2013

On the Eve Of You

My dear boy,

We are just weeks- or maybe days- away from meeting you and I have so much to tell you before you get here.

More than anything, I want you to know how excited we are to see your sweet face and hold you and lock eyes with you.  Each night we crawl into bed and talk about you and what it will be like to have you home with us.  I always say that I can’t wait to hold you and your daddy, well he is so silly, because he talks about wanting to poke at you and take you to Starbucks in the baby carrier to get a gold card.

We just want you here with us and still can’t quite comprehend how real you are.

These last couple of months, you have been truly celebrated.  Friends and neighbors held celebrations in your honor and we have been overwhelmed by all of the love and excitement they have shown in awaiting your arrival.  People we do not know have sent you gifts or sent us messages congratulating us.  They heard our story and know what a miracle you are and they just want to be a part of our joy.  

It’s almost as if you are everyone’s baby, but how blessed we are that you are ours.

Lately, you and I have been meeting in my dreams.  I hold you and we go for walks and there is always a lot of kissing and cooing.  I love those dreams and our time together in them.  

Could a mother love her son anymore than I love you?  I just don’t see how it’s possible.

I keep thinking about how this time last year I was resigned to the idea that we would never have a baby and although it was not what I wanted, I was beginning to settle in with that.  But your daddy always had hope and he- along with the hopes and prayers of so many others- believed it was not yet the end for us.  

That kind of hope comes from GOD and it is because of HIM you are here, my sweet baby.  

These last nine months have been so redemptive for me physically.  I have spent the last three years mourning (and sometimes hating) my body and what it would not do and now I get to revel in all the ways it has changed because of you.

And I cannot help but think of the babies we have lost.  They are your brothers and sisters and you will never meet them, but we will talk about them.  They will be important for you to know about because their lives- and their deaths- changed me in ways that have shaped the woman I am now; the mother I will become; and the follower of CHRIST I am called to be.

Grief changes a person- it has to- and the choice I had to make was if I was going to let it make me bitter or softer.  I never wanted bitterness to be my legacy and that is not something I will pass on to you.

And so, on the eve of you, I want you to know that you are treasured beyond riches and wanted beyond desires.  You are our miracle and an embodiment of GOD’s promise to make all things new.  

I love you so much, dear boy.

July 8, 2013

The Seasons of My Son

I enjoy winter.  Unlike most people I know, I look forward to the bare branches, white lawns, and grey skies.  I suppose it is the melancholy side of me that needs some months of the year to appease me and match my reflections and thoughts.  

And I like to bundle up in layers, cover my head, and hole up in our cozy place in the sky.  I need privacy and a chance to retreat because unlike what most people would think, I am not an extrovert and relish time alone- like really truly alone or with my love.

We learned I was pregnant on January 22 while we were away visiting family.  The news was welcomed but both Jason and I settled into our customary line of thinking: let’s just see where this goes before we think about it too much. 

And so for me, it felt so fitting to begin my 7th pregnancy in the season of winter.  I was feeling anxious about what would come of my baby and could not fathom seeing bright flowers and sunny skies when I knew this could sadly come to an end for us.  Once I was 6 weeks along, nausea and extreme fatigue kicked in and I was grateful for the excuse of winter to stay home and retreat.

I spent the time watching and waiting, hoping and praying, and crying and laughing through my anxiety in what would become the Winter of all Winters.  

It must be universal that spring signifies the promise of new beginnings and the hope that comes with that.  I am reminded of GOD’s promise to make all things new most in the springtime.  HE alone can end the winters of our hearts and minds.

As the weeks went by and after two good reports from the midwives on the status of this pregnancy, it felt right to be in the season of spring.  Flowers were budding on the trees, lawns were starting to show as the snow melted, and the sun was peeking through the clouds more and more.  

These things were happening as my baby did something so unexpected: he made it past the first trimester and continued to prove strong and valiant as the second trimester quickly came upon us. 

As the landscape of the physical world around me was changing, so was my body.  It began to round out and after having only speculated about what this change in me could look like, I was seeing it with my own eyes.  It was surreal and welcomed.

On May 2 we found out we where having a son and just hours later my Uncle Danny passed away.  The joy of new life mixed with the sadness of a life that had ended was a milestone in the Spring of all Springs.

I have never been a fan of summer.  I don’t like the heat or the humidity and I don’t like the sun barreling down on me.  For me, summer is much too extreme of a season and is sensory overload for the body.  One minute you are sweating profusely from the heat that rises from the pavement and the next you are shivering from the air conditioning blowing on your feet and nose.  

But most everyone loves summer.  They give summer a high-five and a nod of approval when she comes rolling in with her heat and sunshine.  The world takes notice of summer because she is hard to miss and is prominently on display.

Being this pregnant in this season of the year has been a bit of sensory overload for me.  I am less able to tolerate heat, sometimes my ankles swell and I can’t be on my feet as long as I am used to, and I am hungry all. of. the. time.  I am used to having a light appetite in the hot months but this baby demands food all day and all night.

When I walk down the street, I get smiles from old ladies, nods and winks from moms, and stares from everyone else.  It seems that most of the world takes notice of pregnant women.

I turned 35 a few days ago and while I always thought I would be done with having children by this time in life, it’s been exciting and humbling to anticipate the arrival of our son in this Summer of all Summers.

I love fall.  Always have.  Always will.  Fall brings cool breezes that put an end to summer, a color palette pleasing to any eye, and the chance to slow down after a season of playing hard and playing all day long.  Fall is the capstone of the year because it both invites reflection on the past year and anticipation of the new year to come.

Our son will be born in the fall and I am glad for that.  It seems the perfect time of year to welcome this sweet baby into our arms.  We have been waiting for this time in our lives for so very long.  We have dreamed of what it will be like and to have it be just a season away is more than we could have ever have hoped for after so much loss.

As I await the birth of this baby, I am reflective of the journey we have been on and excited for where it is leading us now.  It is safe to say that once our boy arrives, we will be living in the Fall of all Falls.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

June 24, 2013

Spiritual Deliverance

PLEASE NOTE: I am sharing some very personal thoughts and by sharing them I am not seeking advice or input on what I should or should not do.  But words of encouragement are always welcomed!

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of the idea of giving birth.  I am sure TV, movies, and people’s scary stories are what led me to believe that nothing good could come from having to give birth- besides the obvious getting to hold a baby in your arms, which never really consoled my fears.

My mom tells of the times I would worry to her, “What if I marry someone when I grow up who wants to have babies?”  I was probably 6 when I started thinking about this.

Well, I did marry someone who wants to have babies (turns out I did, too!) and now I am 27 weeks pregnant and the inevitable act of having to give birth is quickly coming upon me.  And I am constantly in a state of reflection of these past few years and how they have shaped my mind and heart as I approach the impending birth of our son.

With the exception of my first miscarriage, all of our babies were miscarried in the quiet of our home because it was important to me to honor their too-short lives by allowing them to pass through my body just as they would have had they had the chance to be born full-term.  I always did this in our bathtub so I could “catch” my babies and have the chance to see them outside of my body.  Those moments were a perplexing mixture of peace, sadness, and curiosity.

Medical intervention (specifically D&C’s) was always presented to me as an option to quickly end the process and get my body back to “normal” sooner than later.  But that never was an option for me.  Not because I am some sort of super woman or look down upon such help, but because I knew even back then that though these experiences were sad ones, my miscarriages were shaping my outlook on how I would deliver a full-term baby if ever given the chance.  

I knew my body was capable of miscarrying on its own and did not any help.  The less people and the less intervention involved the better because for me, the process of miscarrying was not strictly medical- it was spiritual.  While my heart was crying out in pain, my body was too.  And the crying out of both my heart and body was meant for GOD to hear because only HE could deliver me through such pain as this.

So as we began to talk about how we would like our son to be born into this world, my immediate thought was to do a water birth because it felt like a way to redeem the past three and a half years and to actively see GOD’s promise to make all things new.  

I know there are so many variables in giving birth- so many things that can happen that one cannot predict or plan for- and so while I prepare for a water birth by educating myself, securing labor support, and asking the LORD for HIS help and HIS presence on that fateful day, I know all this could change.  And I am okay with that.

And I will not deny that I still carry some fear in me- fear of the unknown and what I cannot control and fear of the pain- but I am constantly reminding myself that my body was made to labor and that as my mom would so often tell me, “Labor is not pain.  Pain is your body responding to something that is not natural.  It is natural for your body to labor.  Labor is work.”

Through all of this, I am pondering this birth not as a medical condition but a chance for redemption and the opportunity to feel immeasurable joy after a season of so much sadness and grieving.  

For me, the birth of my son will be a spiritual deliverance no matter how he is delivered into my arms.

May 28, 2013

A New Bend in the Road

I am 23 weeks along in this pregnancy and I can report that it has only been in the last few weeks that I have felt more excitement than anxiety.  Getting to our 20 week ultrasound and knowing that everything is just as it should be with our sweet little boy was a hurdle I needed to jump over in order for my heart to freely and fully enter into the joy and anticipation of his arrival.

So we have begun to make plans for our son’s arrival and in doing so, we no longer talk about “if” he comes home, but “when” he will come home.  

When my baby kicks or has the hiccups, I delight in that.  And yet, I mourn what I never got to experience with our other six babies.  I am still mindful that we waited over three years for this time in our lives to come and that getting here found us losing so much.

A few times it has been said to me that the happiness and excitement we feel now must make up for all that we have endured in the past.

I assure you it does not.

The present joy of things does not diminish or erase the past hurt and losses; rather, it is the losses and pain from the past that heightens the joy of things today.

And so it seems I am turning down a new bend in the road and I am no longer a mother who only mourns.  Now I am a mother who continues to mourn, but also one who can see on the horizon something full of life being born out of my body and into our hearts.