Wednesday, October 31, 2012

isn't it always?

I'm supposed to love all this {halloween} stuff.

All of the candy, 
and the squishy-cheek babies so hidden behind furry costumes that they're barely recognizable, 
and the princesses, the spidermans, the incredible hulks, the witches, and the zombies.
Their footsteps, getting louder as they approach our door, 
their eager and excited knocks {or in our neighborhood, pounds} on the glass, 
their curious peaks inside .... trick or treat?

I'm supposed to love all this stuff, but all I can think about is {her}.  

How right now, I'd be in my second trimester, 
trading my skinny jeans for a belly band, 
anticipating each visit to the doctor's office as it brought something new and exciting to our journey as parents. 

How this time next year, we'd buy a cute furry costume for our baby, 
and we'd squish her cheeks and we'd oooh and aaah about how cute she looks, 
how she has her father's sea-blue eyes, 
and her mother's button nose {and stubborn sass}. 

And then we'd pose for a family picture,
"Baby's first halloween" 
With smiles so real, and true, and happy.
Blessed, even. 

And then we'd turn to each other, my husband and me, and we'd whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, an offering of gratitude... thank you Jesus for blessing us so abundantly. 

I'm supposed to love all this {halloween} stuff.

But tonight? I can't.  Sure, I filled a bowl with candy and put on a smile for the {few} ghosts and goblins and pumpkins that knocked {pounded} on our door.  But each and every time a squishy baby in a furry costume approached my stairs, I had to stop and make sure I was still alive, still breathing, still somewhat whole, somewhere in there. 

This is harder than I ever thought it would be. 

... isn't it always?  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

what has He done for your soul?

Telling our stories is a very daring, inviting, and bold thing to do sometimes.  

That's why most of us don't do it and instead choose to hide.  We tell ourselves that these are our secrets, our deepest disappointments, the places we run to when the world feels overwhelming.  We tell ourselves that if we share them with others, we will be disregarded or stoned or maybe even die of embarrassment.  We fear what it means to be vulnerable, to live in the light, to open ourselves to others' opinions, and words, and judgments.  Telling someone what happened to me would be too painful.  Telling someone what I did would ruin everything.  She will never understand.  He will leave me.  It's just not worth it to tell my story. 

And so, we keep our stories wrapped up in a box with a ribbon on top, high up on a shelf in a closet where no one could find them if they tried.  They are much safer there, we tell ourselves. Contents unexposed, safe and sound.  And then we put on a smile and tell the world around us that all is well.

{ Confession: The temptation to hide and to dwell in apathy is one of my greatest inner-struggles, and I hate it.  For that reason, I have decided to write again, to get in the habit of sharing my stories, even when they are messy and I just don't feel like it.  I need to do this.  It's how God works in my heart and brings healing, even when I don't want to get well.  I am only now learning how to do this again. }

Ever since I 'outed' myself and shared about my miscarriage here on my blog, I have been overwhelmed by how many people have 'come forward' and shared their stories with me.  Emails and messages and confessions through a computer screen: I lost a child, too.  I was depressed.  We can't get pregnant.  I struggle to have faith.  I have no one to talk to about this.  I don't know how to trust God anymore.

Let me tell you something, these stories have helped soothe my aching soul.  

They have reminded me that I am not alone in my struggles.  

These stories, your stories, are powerful and have the potential to move mountains, change hearts, birth empathy and understanding where there is none.  

Your stories are sweet testimonies, given to you by God for the purpose of sharing them with others. 

You and I were not created to hide

We were created to live in community, to bond over our pain and suffering and joy and peace, to encourage one another through the sharing of our lives, and yes, through the sharing of our most sacred and deepest personal stories. 

Your story might not be like my story, but it is valuable and treasured and important.  It is meant to be told. 

So go into that closet and get your story off that shelf.  {It was never meant to stay there.}  Unwrap it, piece by piece, and share it with someone you trust.  Speak it out loud or write it.  Send it in an email to a friend, post it on your blog, or share it below on mine.  Your story is welcomed here.

"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul" - Psalm 66:16

So, what has He done for your soul? 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

lord, let that be true...

Lately, it feels as if loss has become a {not-so-welcome} guest in our lives.  As if losing a child through miscarriage is not enough, loss has decided to unpack it's bags and stay a while.  Allow me to explain. 

We officially found out that we miscarried our baby a few Monday's ago.  The next couple of days were really hard for us, and by Friday, we were exhausted and in need of some major r&r.  We spent the evening catching up on our favorite TV shows and enjoying a homemade pizza brought over to us by a neighbor.  But then, smack-dab in the middle of our quiet, restful evening, we heard a loud bang, and then a loud screech, and then another loud bang.  What was happening?

I ran to the front door and did only what {somehow} made sense to do at the time: open it.  It was hard to hear anything over the loud screeching and our now piercing-loud alarm screaming for someone to just enter the stupid code so it could take a breather, but I'm pretty sure my husband said {or yelled, for my own good}  some very wise words like what are you thinking?!? and close the door before we die.  Before I could figure out what I was thinking {I clearly wasn't}, we both saw truck lights climbing up onto our sidewalk and headed right towards our next door neighbors' house.  Yes, truck lights.  Headed towards the house beside ours. My husband grabbed me out of harm's way and slammed the door shut and together, we listened for the rest of the sounds..... another couple of screeches, another couple of bangs, and then the quiet. 

Our inner-city neighborhood usually doesn't get quiet, but after something like what happened with the truck, sometimes all you can do is stare in shock.  When we opened our front door again, we saw most of the block congregated at the other end of our street, staring at a cluster of smashed vehicles in the side of a house.  Our cars, to be exact.  {Here's a visual of my car after the crash.}


Loss, you see, is a difficult thing.  It rarely comes with a 'heads-up' tattooed in the sky so you can prepare for it, or a manual that you can read to know how to live beyond it.  Usually, loss just happens, like a thief in the night.  Or in our case, like a driver who decided to get behind the wheel after too many whiskey sours, or hits, or whatever panic led him to total both of our vehicles in a matter of seconds.   

Wasn't losing our baby difficult enough?  Now, both of our vehicles?  How much more loss could we possibly endure?

My husband turned to me with pain and confusion in his eyes: this has to be spiritual. 

A few neighbors explained what they saw from their 2nd story row-home windows: we heard a bang, he drove the wrong way down our one-way street, he hit a car, backed up onto the curb, smashed into your husband's car, panicked, smashed into your car, it spun, he pushed it into the side of that house, then he jumped out and ran that-a-way, something like that. 

My phone vibrated with a message from a neighbor {now friend}: I know everything seems as if its all coming to yall at once n its hard to handle but I believe there are brighter days to come n soon this will be all past yall.

I prayed, Lord let that be true.  We can't handle anything else.  We're not that strong.  

The truth is, we're not strong at all.  And as we have learned, we are not beyond devastating loss, and storms, and trials.  None of us are.  All we know to do right now is cling to each other and what we know to be true {even when we don't feel it}:

God is faithful.
He has not abandoned us.
We are not alone in our grief.
There is a purpose for these trials beyond what we can see.
We are being made new.
Our feelings and emotions cannot change these truths.
We are going to be okay. 

Lord, let that be true. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

life after 'M': part 2

{ If you haven't read part 1 of this post, read it here }

What came next was truly a whirlwind of emotions.  I'm pregnant.  I knew it {kind-of}!  I'm not barren!  What will my husband think? He'll be such an awesome dad! We can surprise our family with the news at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  This is the best gift ever!  But then it hit me, abruptly and like an oh-so sharp pain to my soul: If I'm pregnant, what was all that pain and bleeding that happened two weeks ago?  Is our baby okay?

After speaking with an on-call nurse, my husband rushed me to the lab for a blood pregnancy test.  It was confirmed within minutes: {positive}.  My appointment to see the ob/gyn wasn't until the following morning.  That night, my husband did everything he could to try to encourage me and lift my spirits.  He told me things like God is faithful and let's just pray, and wait, and see.  I tried to believe him; I truly did.  But my thoughts wandered into the abyss, assuming that the worst had already happened and we would never get out of this pit of hopelessness and despair.  Our baby was likely gone, and there was nothing we could do about it. 

That next morning, I plopped onto a cold table in my ob/gyn's office feeling so vulnerable, so broken.  After some small talk about dates and details and symptoms, she pulled out the ultrasound machine.  I watched, expectantly, hoping to see some sign of life on that screen... anything that would remind me that God is faithful and real and true, that our baby was alive and healthy, that we'd have something to celebrate, not a devastating loss to grieve.  I had googled enough to know what a healthy baby should look like on that screen, yet I saw nothing but darkness and pain and sorrow.  No sign of life.  No sign of our baby.  Now what? 

She wanted to run some tests to be sure, so I complied.  If only a few pricks in my arm could take away the pain in my soul, I thought.  But they didn't.  Nothing did.  After day two of {arm-pricking} tests, I wrote these words in my journal: "I never thought I'd be in this place, waiting for news such as this.  You read about miscarriage and feel compassion for those affected by miscarriage, but us?  We're young and healthy and it doesn't make sense.  But then again, maybe she's still alive and needs a little help and supplements to survive this... maybe we'll get a miraculous result. God could do that, right?" 

I prayed Psalm 139 over our baby for days while waiting for the official results.  It brought me hope, peace and heartache all at the same time.

{ Lord, you made all the delicate, inner parts of her body and knit her together in my womb.  You watched her, so small and tiny, as she was being formed inside of me, as she was woven together inside of me.  You saw her before she was born.  Every day of her life was recorded in your book; every moment was laid out before a single day passed. }

And then, the phone call came, the one that confirmed our worst fears: {Your miscarriage happened two weeks ago. Your levels aren't consistent with a normal pregnancy. Your baby is gone. You should be able to try again soon.}

Try again soon?  What about this baby, the one that existed but is now gone? My thoughts couldn't manage to go to next month, next week or even tomorrow.  Our baby {with fingers and toes and little holes where newly-developing ears were supposed to someday hear her mommy and daddy whisper I love you} was gone. We would never hold her, or kiss her nose, or decorate her nursery, or send her off for her first day of school.  Sure, we may be blessed with other children in the future, but what about her?

Before I experienced a miscarriage for myself, I probably would have unknowingly said the same thing to a friend who lost a child You know, things like.... 'at least you weren't further along' and 'you're so young! you have your whole life ahead of you to have more children!' and 'well, God is sovereign and He must be sparing you and your child from something.'  Word to the wise, people: do not say these things to a friend who has just lost a child.  

You may mean them with a sincere heart {or you just might not know what to say} but there is nothing worse than feeling invalidated and forced to "get over" what others may perceive as not that big of a deal or your body's natural way of dealing with an unhealthy pregnancy.  Sure, this may be the case... but your friend, your patient, family member, wife, sister, whoever.... they don't need to hear this in the midst of their grief.  Instead, they need you to listen, to treat their loss as genuine and real, to do your best to try to understand the ups and downs of going through a miscarriage, to refer to their lost child as a human being {not tissue, or cells, or an 'it'}.  This is a true, heart-wrenching loss that is felt deeply and painfully in a way that is difficult to put into words.

Our baby is gone, and there is nothing we can do to change that

life after 'M': part 1

I never {I mean never} expected my first post in years to be about what I am going to be sharing over these next couple of posts.  I wanted my first post in my new blog to be about being newly-married, learning to give up my nomadic ways and choose to dwell, living and doing incarnational ministry in the inner-city of East Baltimore, learning what it means to be Jesus and show love to our neighbors, and all that comes with a life dedicated to these things.  I started and stopped several "introductory" posts, assuming I had writer's block and that nothing would be good enough.  God clearly had another plan, a story that now needs to be told in order for me to find healing and hope again.  This, my friends, is my story about life after M.

Recently finding out that we were pregnant came right out of left field, like an unexpected curveball that brought emotions of excitement coupled with fear.  We weren't necessarily trying to get pregnant, but in our words we "weren't not trying not to get pregnant," which in hindsight seems like the exact same thing. The results were surely the same, or so we thought.  But then came M.

I had unknowingly been pregnant for 8 weeks.  Actually, throughout my journal I swore up and down to the Lord that I felt "off" and pregnant, and that the tests were lying.  I took several tests over those first few weeks, but not one was positive.  I eventually stopped testing and chalked my extreme exhaustion up to stress or allergies or the flu.  Besides, anytime my husband suggested we wait a bit longer to have kids, I assured him that I was convinced God had made me barren and unable to have children, {in my mind} some type of punishment for my past or something.  To my husband, I only made this comment jokingly, but deep down {and if I'm honest}, this has been a fear of mine for many years.  I want to be a mother more than I can even explain in words.  I have always wanted to be a mother.  Anyone who knows me can attest to that, especially my dear {and patient} husband, who began shooing off my requests for a "honeymoon-baby" well before we started premarital counseling.  He {very, very wisely} wanted to kick-start our ministry in the city and grow as a couple. I wanted to kick-start our ministry and grow as one big happy family with a couple babies on our hips.  Who can blame me for wanting that? 

Before the miscarriage {at approximately 8 weeks gestation}, our baby had hands and feet, fingers and toes. She had eyes and eyelids, newly developing lungs and a brain beginning to learn to communicate with her tiny little body.  She actually wasn't yet a he or she developmentally, but in my heart, I'll always see her as our sweet baby girl.  No bigger than a kidney bean, a grape, a bb pellet, a raspberry.

The night that the miscarriage happened, I didn't know what hit me.  Intense pain and cramping consumed my body and left me feeling lifeless and exhausted.  And then the bleeding started.  That time of the month, I assumed.  My husband made dinner that night while I rested on the couch.  Little did I know, a miscarriage had come and gone like a thief in the night, only in his arms he carried with him our sweet little raspberry. I wouldn't even know she existed until two weeks later. 

The next morning, I took a pregnancy test {another negative} and wrote the following words in my journal: "No baby, but I guess that's understandable considering the horrendous night I had last night.  I would willingly go through all that for a healthy baby... but just because?"  I drug myself to work the next day, and the next, convinced that God had poured out the full curse of Eve {and that stupid apple} onto my uterus.  In my journal I wrote to the Lord: "one day I'll be able to write, have kids, and raise and teach our children... sometimes I feel so saddened by the 'not yet.'" 

I decided to try to put the "not yet" away in my pocket and focus on the "right now": my husband's wisdom teeth surgery, our first Sunday at a new church in our community, our annual fall trip to see friends from college, sweet little elderly clients at work whose problems {poverty, depression, failing health, pending death} seemed much bigger than mine.  I got as busy as I could before the nausea kicked in, right smack in the middle of our trip to Lynchburg.  I took a nap, sucked it up and went about the rest of our trip as planned.  When Monday morning came, I went to work and told my co-worker that I felt "off."  She told me to take a pregnancy test, to which I thought to myself 'oh, great, some more negatives that only confirm I'm either crazy or dying.'  I decided to go ahead and test anyway. 

After work, I went to the dollar store {yes, i'm a cheapo} and requested three tests at the check-out counter.  The attendee, younger than I was, chuckled and blurted out "Three? I guess you just want to be sure, huh?"  I smiled and nodded my head politely, thinking to myself that test #1 was prove that I was ill {and clearly not pregnant since I had tested a thousand times already}, tests #2 & #3 were to save me from this girl's smirky inconsiderate comments the next time I thought I might be expecting.  I came home and peed in a cup, the good-ol-fashioned way.  Four drips onto the cheapo test with the little plastic squeezy-dropper thing.  Then came the silent waiting.  I couldn't stand it.  {What was I waiting for anyhow?}  I peeked at the test a few seconds later and saw nothing but the control line.  I left the room, folded some clothes, and casually returned to the bathroom to check again.  Two lines.  I squinted my eyes to look again, held the test in the light, then switched to different {maybe better} light, squinting a second, third and forth time. Maybe my eyes were broken? The second line was faint, but there were definitely two lines.  I was pregnant. 

{{ to be continued }}