Thursday, March 29, 2012

A big lesson from a little potty

Sometimes God chooses weird times to talk to us.

Mine happened to be while Mommy and Maddy were having Mommy/Maddy pee time. (Now that she's potty training, that's what we call it!)

I was struck by how often I complain these days -- at least mentally. Complain that I'm not pregnant with Olivia. That babies die. That I'll never know my daughter this side of heaven.

Really, I could go on forever about these complaints, but you get the gist.

As I was thinking about my complaints, I realized that I was missing out on everything God WAS doing in my life.  Maybe I have been physically there for it -- but I certainly haven't been recognizing it, or even praising Him for it.

I focus on being terrified of when God will take Maddy . . . instead of thanking Him for her life and health for this day.

I stress about when I will get pregnant next and how that will go . . . instead of trusting that He will be in control, and that His will is always best.

As I grieve the loss of a relationship with my little girl . . . I've failed to recognize the many beautiful, and, I hope, lasting friendships I've created since starting this journey.

In everything around me, I've been focusing on what I don't have or what I'm afraid to lose . . . instead of seeing God's providential hand still working on my behalf, even when I'm angry and bitter at Him.

As I was thinking about this, I thought about how much I do for Maddy, and she has no idea. She complains to me when she doesn't get ice cream or when she doesn't get an extra bed-time book . . . but she doesn't realize how much I do for her, and how much time I give her every day to make sure she's as healthy and as happy as a 3-year-old should be.

I guess God does that with me, too. Works on my behalf, while I don't recognize the half of it, and only tell him the things I'm mad at Him for doing.

I struggled with this idea earlier this week in small group. We talked about giving thanks in all circumstances, and I just didn't know how I could do that. The examples the author of our study gave were too petty, I felt. What about when your child dies?? How do you thank God in THAT circumstance?

But still . . . the idea of giving thanks in ALL things in scripture.

". . . give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. "
1Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

I have a feeling this idea of giving thanks in a loss is going to be a lesson I'm going to have to learn over, and over, and over again. Because, for those of you who don't know, I've been really struggling with anger toward God. And it's really easy for me to focus ONLY on what I've lost.

Seeing glimpses of God's hand does not negate my need to "focus" on my loss through grief. And I think this day is more of a respite, but that the anger, hurt and feelings of betrayal will all come again. But I think having His gentle reminder today really helped me trust, even just a little, more in Him.

And that little bit of trust is giving me some peace and comfort tonight. And for this moment, I am very grateful for the things and people He has given me. And I'm grateful for a God who doesn't give up on us, even when we give up on Him.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

3 rays of light in an impossible day . . .

Yesterday was a very good day to open my mail box.

Mixed in with ads, bills and insurance letters claiming to save me $100 a month on my coverage, I found 3 very sweet pieces of mail.

The first was a thank-you letter for attending a friend's baby shower. It was my first shower after my loss. And it didn't go without a complete breakdown from me, followed by my inability to read a blesssing to the baby, and tears for the rest of the day.

However, I love my friend and her sweet baby-on-the-way. And I'm glad I went. The act of going was more of a gift than the onesies and baby wash. I guess, in my own way, my presence (albeit, broken and teary-eyed) was the best gift I could give.

My second piece of mail was from my best friend, Robin. There was no letter, no note. Nothing but a ring.


She didn't need to have words. The ring was enough. The pearls stand for Maddy and Olivia. The diamonds are for Ryan and I, hemming in our precious little ones.

She doesn't know this, but my promise ring my grandparents gave me when I was 16 was a white gold ring, with a pearl and 2 diamonds on the side, just a little askew like this one. I love that my first ring symbolized my commitment to my husband. And this one symbolizes our love and commitment to our girls.

I have the best, best friend ever.

My third piece of mail is from my second mom in Jr. High -- Robin's mom, Judy. She wrote me the sweetest letter, and since there is no way to sum up her words, I'm just going to let you read her words yourself . . .


Mar. 24, 2012
Dear Rachel,

As you know, our beloved Robin can be sort of urgent, at times. "MOM!" she says. "You have to read Rachel's blog so we can PRAY!!" Rachel has a blog? I didn't know that . . .

So now I am reading your blog. And Rachel, it is amazing. You are so coherently and beautfiully expressing your season of grief. I am drawn into it because I know and love you, but that is not the only reason. Your writing is powerful. Someday, when it all doesn't hurt quite so badly, you could publish it.

So my mind and heart have been occupied this week with the "story" Rachel and Olivia. It so happens that Bob and I attend the annual Gideons Banquet. It comes to me that I could donate Bibles in Olivia's name. Anyway, that someone could find Jesus through her seems so fitting to me.  I love imagining a scene in heaven when you and me and Olivia and some Gideon who handed out Bibles in India are gathered around a woman with an amazing testimony of coming to faith through a Gideon Bible. This whole scenario delights and comforts me and I offer it to you in the hope that you will find comfort in it, too!

One last thing. When Bob is talking to someone who has just lost a loved one, he tells them, "Expect that people will say the wrong thing. Your friends and family do not intend to hurt you, but they will. This also is part of the grief process." Being in the ministry for so long, Bob and I have developed sort of a macabre sense of humor about the well-intentioned-but-awful things people can say sometimes!! Laugh them off whenever you can!

We love you, Rachel. Carry on. There's light up ahead!

Judy


I love that while I'm struggling with my faith, others who are stronger are carrying that faith for me, and are creating a spiritual legacy for my daughter.

Needless to say, I cried a lot yesterday. It was a really hard day full of anxiety and fear. I think God knew I needed these precious gifts of support yesterday to help carry me through.

To those of you who are supporting someone through a loss, please don't EVER question the impact you can have on a grieving mom! Your gifts and letters might seem like so little to you in light of the loss -- but trust me when I say they can make a difference between an impossible day, and a day where a little light and hope burst forth.

To everyone of you who has ever given a note of encouragement, a gift of rememberance, a thoughtful word, prayer or a hug to a woman with empty arms . . .

THANK YOU!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Taking on the elephant in the room.

Well . . . hello.

I guess I need to break the ice again . . . but I'm not sure how.

I hate to say it, but for the first time, I think this blog has become a bit awkward for me. It's kind of feels like the social equivalent of getting drunk, totally humiliating yourself, and then having to go face the crowd when you're sober and embarrassed.

(Not that I have been drunk before. Well, OK, I got drunk when I was 3 years old. But that's another story . . .)

There feels like a big elephant in the room. And I wanted to ignore it -- but I think I'm just going to have to address it head on. I shared on my last note much more personally than I ever have before, and that is embarrassing and scary.

But I can't decide if sharing so intimately with what I am struggling with is a good thing or a bad thing. It's not really socially normal, I do know that. But does that make it wrong?

That's where I'm fuzzy.

My husband encouraged me to keep the note up because it is a truthful account of what I'm dealing with. It's totally ugly, but it's true. I felt like my counselor recommended I get more honest on this blog as a way to get out of that need to control my image. To really be upfront, and grieve.

My sister, on the other hand, recommended I take it down. I don't need to socially martyr myself, and I don't need to be 100% transparent. Some things are personal, and they don't need to be public for anybody and everybody to see. When I received LOTS of concerned phone calls the day after my post -- well, I think I started to agree with my sister.

I'm struggling because I can't decide if it's good or bad that I'm uncomfortable. It could be GOOD because I'm being proactive in breaking that pretty box . . . but it's BAD if I crossed a line, or have inadvertantly pushed people away.

While there's much I'm debating, I did decide to edit my post ever so slightly to temper it down.

I've also decided that I'm definitely going through a depression. Which also brings up more questions . . . If I am blogging about pregnancy loss, but I'm also depressed, doesn't that mean that less women will be able to relate? Will this blog be now about depression after loss -- or can it still serve those who are going through a loss without having succumbed to depression?

I wish I knew the answers . . . .

Even as I question my content, my voice, and my level of transparency, I still stand strong in my purpose.

I am writing through my grief because in hard times, sometimes the only thing that helps is someone who has been there, done that, and is brave enough to share their story. I want to be brave with my story.

I am writing because it gives me an outlet for my feelings and grief.

I blog because I need Olivia's life to have meaning.

I share because, the first day after my loss, I had an intense need to share Olivia's "birth" story -- just like other women do who have gone through labor and had healthy babies. I assume other women have this need, and I want to provide a safe place to share our stories.

I write because I was once the girl that said all the wrong things and was a very unhelpful support person to my friends and acquaintances dealing with pregnancy loss. I want to help break the silence, help others understand what it's like to lose a baby (no matter the gestation), and give them the words and tools they need to truly support their loved one in the best way possible.

I write because I do believe that God has gifted me with a love for the written word, and I want to use that to His glory.

I continue to write because more than 4,000 people have viewed this blog in 3 months . . .  and that tells me that somehow, in some way, my writing is helping others . . . even though I can't always see it or know the outcome.

I pour out my heart on this thing because I need my friends and family to know what I'm going through -- but I have a hard time communicating that in person.

I long to know that I'm not alone in my feelings. I long to feel connected, because I so often feel lost in myself and unconnected when I am physically around others. I long to feel hope.

If you have viewed this blog, I'm going to ask a favor. Will you please let me know if and what you have found helpful in my writing? As I wrestle with where to take this blog, your suggestions and feedback will really help me.

As much as this started out being about Olivia -- it's now really about you, my readers. And helping you, while helping me, is Olivia's legacy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The pretty little (deadly) box

I don't know when it began.

Was it when I was a child, and needed my room to be without mess or disorder after a traumatic move? Was it when I was in Jr. High, and became painfully aware of my acne and lack of fashion sense? Was it when boy after boy after boy broke my heart and left me during my college years?

When exactly was it that I began believing that I needed to wrap everything about me and my life in this pretty little box? A neat, tidy package with a beautiful bow on top?


Maybe it was all of my experiences combined . . .  However and whenever it started, the truth is that everything I present about myself goes through a pretty strict critical eye. My eye.

Even when people think I am being raw on this blog, the truth is, often my words are very carefully chosen. My posts appear to be a haphazard mess of emotion, but that is an illusion. I choose what I will share, and what I will hide. I craft a message, craft my words -- until even my grief is wrapped in this pretty little bow.

I don't do this on purpose. My life isn't MEANT to be an illusion. Really, I am being me as much as I know how. It's just that the me I'm used to being HAS to come in a pretty box -- otherwise, it's not worth opening. Not worth knowing. Not worth sharing.

I didn't even know this about myself until today during my counseling session. I shared with her my post on my anger and she picked up on a line I didn't even think much about: I am angry that I cry so easily now. I am angry that I always feel the need to be put together and in-control . . . but usually, that is just a facade.

A facade. A pretty box. Pretty much the same thing.

I can't stand to leave the house in jeans and tennis shoes. I do not go out with at least foundation on (which really helps cover the scars from my years of acne). I want every part of my appearance to scream, "I've got it together." I always want my house to be clean . . . . and when it's not, it feels like a negative reflection on me. When I wrap a present, I take very great care to get the bow just right.

In drama class, I hated doing impromptu exercises. I only wanted to show the "world" my acting chops after I had carefully honed every word, every vocal intonation, every facial expression perfectly in the mirror before sharing it.

Crying makes me feel week. People have rejected me before when I have been vulnerable. Therefore, I hate crying. (Too bad for me, cause I tend to be a pretty big cry baby when I open up about anything emotional. So I often choose to bag the emotion and avoid the tears.) I also hate crying because I feel ugly when I cry.

The truth is -- this obsession with appearing to have it together is actually proving to be toxic and deadly. And really, not that pretty after all.

On the surface, it appears that I am doing everything possible to grieve in the best way I can. I constantly hear from others how "well I'm doing" or how "strong I am." I'm reading books on grief and pregnancy loss. I'm seeing a Christian therapist every week. I've joined a pregnancy loss support group. I'm surrounding myself as best as I can with women who have walked that path and can come alongside me. I'm writing as honestly as I can on this blog.

But the problem is, I can't really let myself be all that honest. Because it's messy. Because it doesn't send the message that I have it all together.

I think about my loss all the time in really intellectual terms, and try to logic myself into accepting that Olivia's life was never meant to be. I deny over and over the fact that I lost a child, and that I'm pretty pissed off about it.

I don't come to God about it because I can't be that "all-together" package I think He wants. Surely the God of the Universe wants me to come to Him with praise even when I hurt, to admit that I know His ways are right, and that I trust Him. But I don't feel like I can honestly do any of that. I can't give Him a beautiful sacrifice of praise. So I don't come to Him at all.

So in order to make a first attempt to shatter that pretty little (deadly) box I wrap myself in. . . Let me share from my heart about my day:

Counseling sucked. As my therapist opened my eyes to my need for control and perfectionism, whole years of my life started to make sense. It's a lot to handle when you finally start to see some big truth in yourself that has affected almost every decision you've made, big and small.

I realized that I've already blundered so much on this journey of grief by deep inside refusing to really believe I lost a baby and that I have something (and SOMEONE) to grieve. My counselor urged me to let Olivia be whatever she needed to be to me. If I don't let her be what I dream her to be, than I can't really grieve her.

To me, Olivia needs to be a sweet little newborn girl, making all those precious little faces in a darling little pink hat, swaddled in a blanket my mother would have knitted for her. She would steal my heart a little more with every single breath, every yawn, every sneeze. It's weird, but I have a very distinct mental image that I cling to of what she would look like.

I need her to be a fun little 6-month-old, making faces while trying new foods for the first time. She sits in the bumbo hanging out with her sister and me as we make dinner. I carry her in our Ergo as I go through the day, keeping her close. Ryan, Maddy and I will laugh as she learns new tricks

I need her to be Maddy's best friend growing up. I imagine their squeals of laughter as they dress up as princesses and twirl around as ballerinas. I can feel her sweaty embrace and snotty kiss on my face. I picture reading bedtime stories together, building forts and making Christmas cookies -- just the three of us girls.

When I think of Olivia . . . This is what I picture her to be. Not just a clump of cells in my fallopian tube. She was my precious, precious daughter. I wish I could live out of the moments I so often dream of!

In addition to counsling sucking, today marks the 3-month anniversary of her passing. Which is also the 3-month anniversary of my tube rupturing -- and the day that Ryan believed he would have to say goodbye forever to his wife, in addition to his daughter.  I so often forget the trauma he went through. Today he reminded me of how hard it was to go to the hospital, thinking this was the last time he would see me. Looking back, he thought he was going to lose his wife on that one day. Instead, he feels like he loses me a little bit more each day that has passed.

I visited family today, but instead of feeling encouraged, I left feeling once more that I don't belong anywhere. Not even with my parents.

I needed some time to myself, and my tension was building. Ryan was out for a run, and I was back in the kitchen . . . feeling like just one little thing would set me off the edge. I was this close to chucking a plate across the room to the wall.

Maddy, being the 3-year-old she is,  needed my constant attention right at the time. Once I fixed one issue she had, 30 seconds went by before she needed me again. Finally, I couldn't handle it and I screamed at the top of my lungs at her to leave me alone.

In a minute, I was so ashamed and sorry for hurting my little girl like that. I tried my best to apologize, and ask for forgiveness. I let her know that it was very wrong of mommy to ever yell, and that I understood if she was mad at me (which she admitted she was.)

When Ryan came home, I told him I wasn't up for small group, and that I was struggling. He was getting frustrated with my frustration, and in a huff told me he would just take Maddy and get out. He busied himself getting her ready.

When Ryan came in announcing he was ready to go, I actually swallowed my pride and told him I didn't think it was safe for him to leave me alone. For the first time in my life, I was actually afraid I would hurt myself, and I needed him to be with me.

He got the message. He dropped Maddy off at the grandparents, and was with me, letting me cry, rant and question everything. He was everything I needed him to be tonight.

(And just in case you're wondering, I made an appointment with my Dr. to talk about my depression and to see if I need medicine, or if my hormones are out of balance. I think today has officially scared me a little to the point of realizing my feelings are beyond me, and I need help.)

So -- there you go. My attempt to be really honest about the crap I'm dealing with, without wrapping it up with a bow. I'm probably going to regret writing this all out tomorrow. But right now, I've been crying for almost the last 10 hours, and it's 4:45 in the morning and I still haven't slept. So it feels pretty good to get this all out there.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The misfit

In my first life (as in, life before my loss), I was what you might call a social butterfly.

At church, my husband was constantly bewildered by my need to talk with one more person. "Honey, we are the very last people here. Who else could you possibly need to talk to?"

I always kept my calendar full of coffee dates, play dates, business dates, and so on. A day spent to myself was a day wasted. But that was in my first life. The life before I became a misfit.

Don't worry -- no one else has ever called me a misfit, a wall flower, or anything demeaning. But I have to tell you that no other word best describes how I feel most of the time. Like I just don't FIT . . . . anywhere!

When I'm with friends, my small talk always turns to grief talk . . . . and I don't know how comfortable people are with that. When I mention Olivia by name, I imagine my friends are thinking, "That's so weird -- she named her pregnancy. How many weeks was she again? She doesn't even know if it was a girl! I think she's gone off the deep-end just a little . . . "

When we talk about normal, everyday things -- I don't really know how to relate. A girl at my support group said everything just sounds "silly" after losing her son. Not that I don't care about my friends' news, but it's hard to really feel deeply about seemingly normal things when your life has so intimately been touched by death.

A death that took place inside my body, claiming the life of my child while I could only look on.

The result, I'm finding, is that no matter where I am, I want to leave. I want to escape and get away . . .  But the next place is never any better. Being around others feels stiffling at times. So does being at home. I am constantly restless. I never feel like I belong.

This weekend, it was painful. I had a great playdate scheduled with two girlfriends and their children. Both of them are supportive and I value their friendships VERY MUCH. Both of them have only been kind and loving to me.

So why this incredible sadness, this inability to just let go and enjoy their company? Why can't I be the old me? Who is this socially awkward girl that, to everyone else, can't accept her loss? Why is it that I am surrounded by people that love me and my family, and yet I only feel alone?

It's not the loneliness you had when you were a teen and and craved love. Not the loneliness of moving away and starting all over in a new place.

This loneliness is deeper. Scarier.

 A friend who has lost two of her children told me it's like being in a room full of people and screaming on the inside, and no one notices.

It's a feeling that speaks lies to my heart. Lies like, "You will never feel right again in this world. Why don't you give up?" Or, "People think you are just being drama, so get over yourself already." But the worst lies -- the ones that are hardest to ignore -- are "You don't belong anywhere or with anyone. You should hurt on the outside as much as you hurt on the inside. Maybe you should just disappear . . . . No one will really notice anyway."

On the hard days, my soul feels empty. And disappearing sounds like the only solution.

Yesterday at church, I didn't want to see anyone. I could not relate to the people around me singing, "Hungry, I come to you for I know you satisfy . . . " They looked bored. Do they know hunger? I know that I cannot judge their lives just by how they sing. But I couldn't be half-hearted about singing about my hunger. Because my hunger is deep inside, and incredibly painful to visit.

The next verse is . . . "Empty, I run to you for your love does not run dry." Do those around me know emptiness? If they did, would they run to God -- or run away from Him? Do they know what it feels like to feel like God's love had run dry -- at least toward them?

Even during worship, I felt so alone. I simply couldn't sing the words. My heart was not there.

After church, I went to brunch for my support group. If I belong anywhere, surely it is with other women who have lost a child as well. But I also found myself shying away. I assumed women with a stillbirth, late miscarriage, or neonatal death wouldn't want to talk with me. I know a loss is a loss . . . But their loss feels big and mine feels small.

Every woman I talked to really did welcome me and, in so many ways, let me know I was wanted. So why again could I not shake this feeling of being a misfit?

I suppose my feelings are based mostly on lies. More lies. Lies that my grief is not strong enough, or will last long enough, to count. That if my circumstances were different, my grief would matter. If I lost my first child, or my last child, I would belong. If I were further along and had more time to bond to my baby, I could relate to their loss. If only . . .

The only times I feel settled are when I am writing on this blog, working on Arbonne, or am engrossed in playing with Maddy. All other times, I am aware of that this new me really doesn't fit the mold of her first life.

I've got a new life. The life of a misfit. And it's a really weird life to try to fit into.

Note: I just want to be sure everyone knows that:

1) I would never hurt myself, run away, or doing anything terrible. I do, however, hear those lies a lot, and they can be difficult to battle at times and recognize that they are only lies.

2) I am going through a hard time with my relationship with God right now. I will never turn my back on Jesus. I do love Him, and I love His people. But I feel like I've got more questions than answers. If I could relate my experience to Job, I definitely feel like I'm somewhere lost in the middle -- questioning everything with no resolution in sight. But please don't feel like you need to give me answers -- I'm trusting God that He will redeem this time in my life and I'll be closer to Him than ever before.

3) Just because I might act different around you, it doesn't mean that I love you less, or don't value the effort you are putting into our relationship. It also doesn't mean that I feel like spending time with you was a mistake. Please do not take my actions personally! I value all of my friendships, and I still want to talk with people and be with people. I just might not act like it at the time. Please take me however you get me . . . I'm doing the best I can.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What it's like to grieve out loud.

Lately, when a friend asks me how I am, I find myself asking them a question . . . "Did you read my latest blog?"

Not because I'm so self-absorbed that I expect everyone to keep tabs on me through my blog. But it's often because I just don't know how much they already know. Are they asking because yesterday they read I tried to destroy dishes and ended up in a sobbing mess, and are worried that I might take on the office today? Or -- are they just asking because they're just checking in, just like always?

At my last counseling session, I shared how it's a little disorienting to be so open, but not know WHO is reading my blog. I just know that 98 people now know about my tantrum in the kitchen. 98 people who could be from a few dozen different countries. 98 people who could be close friends, distant acquaintances, or complete strangers. But I'll never know who those 98 are!

So besides a being a little weird at times, here are some awesome things -- and not-so-awesome things -- about grieving out loud.

It brings healing. Talking about my loss has given my pain some validation. Friends and family have actually begun to understand more what I'm going through because I write about the very deep hurts, the good days, and the bad days. I feel like because I have chosen to be open about what I'm going through, people have treated me more according to how I feel about my loss rather than what they feel about my loss.

Also, I've heard from others who have not personally experienced a loss that they appreciate finding out more about it. In part as a result of my openness, they feel more equipped to help a friend or family member through their loss. I love that. I write for those of us who are grieving -- but also for those very important support people on a journey of pregnancy loss.

It gives me a purpose. Every single one of us has probably questioned at some point, "What is the meaning of life?" That question takes on new significance when you think of a life cut short. A life, like Olivia's, where there was never even a first breath, a first word, a first anything. What is the meaning of that kind of life?

This blog gives meaning to Olivia's life. Her life touched mine profoundly, and has enabled me to see into a world a grief. A world that we like to think is the exception to this life. But as I travel deeper into this world, I discover that it is not the exception. It is the rule. Almost everyone will be touched deeply by grief. Olivia's life has given me a way to understand the pain, relate to those who are grieving, and offer a hand to hold through the process.

It makes me scared and vulnerable. I'm a people-pleaser through and through. So it's actually quite hard to be open and honest about my experience. There are still aspects to my grief that I don't know if I will ever share-- things I have done that are too embarrassing or make me ashamed. Thoughts that I've had that only God should know. Feelings that are all wrong for the situation, or are pointed at the wrong person.

I struggle with wondering if I wrote the wrong thing, or if I offended someone. I wonder if anybody is really reading or caring (even though the stats tell me people do care.) I feel insecure and afraid. Sometimes I hear the "wrong thing" more often because of the sheer fact that more people know about my early loss. But I have to say that I have also had more support, and more "right things" said, than probably the average person, too.

It makes me feel happy to help others. I've been really surprised to hear who has been helped in some small or big way from my writing. I've had women who have lost grown children relate to my blog, right alongside someone who's struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. Women who have been forced to endure all kinds of loss are reading, commenting and connecting. And somehow, the feelings I have about Olivia are helping some of them. And really, if I even just help one person, Olivia's life and death are worth it.

It also humbles me. I don't feel like I have had the worst kind of loss. I don't always even feel like my grief is as valid as others'. So when I hear that someone who has gone through a far-worse situation, but has found some ounce of comfort in my words, I am humbled. I also feel humbled because I know that nothing good really comes from me -- it always comes from God who works in me to accomplish His good purpose.

It makes me feel connected. Because people "know" me a little through this blog, I think they are more willing to confide in me. To tell me their struggles, pain and grief. And that gives me an opportunity to listen and later pray for them. I love when people tell me how they feel about my posts, and how it has related to their life and their loss. It's such a blessing to be connected to others in this way.

It helps me process. Sometimes I don't even know how I feel until I start writing, and then it all comes out and makes sense for the first time. During most of my counseling sessions, I pull out my iPhone and have my therapist read this week's blog as a jumping-off point for our discussion. To me, writing is life.

It makes me feel honored. I feel so much trust and honor when someone asks me to share their story on my blog. When I read someone's story, edit it and post it . . . I feel like they have invited me to their personal sacred ground. It is a pround blessing and joy to help other women remember their babies in this way.

I am so thankful that God planted the seed in my heart to blog about my experience . . . and I'm so thankful to watch as He uses it to reach others. For me, grieving out loud has been the best decision I could have made during this time.

But I know not everyone feels that being so "out there" is right for them.

If you have chosen to keep a little more silent during your loss, I totally respect that. If you have, what has grieving in solitude meant for you? What beautiful things have you seen come from it? What are the hard parts?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shattered -- The embarrassing truth behind my facade.

This evening, I attended my second M.E.N.D meeting (my pregnancy loss support group). I think I was on edge all day, knowing that I was going to revisit that place of pain that I have so neatly covered over most days. I didn't want to cry over Olivia. I didn't want to cry over everyone's babies.

I told myself to think of myself as a reporter . . . as someone sitting at the feet of amazing women who have endured losses I can't even imagine, learning from them all about grief, loss and how to survive the death of a child. "Everything I learn tonight," I told myself, "will help me empathize and relate to the women and men who read my blog. I need to go for them."

Right.

It didn't take long for my pretense to crash down. Because the truth is, I can not only imagine their loss . . .

. . . . I'm living it.

Each feeling they related struck a chord with me. Sadness. Frustration. Helplessness. Resentment. Loneliness.

But the one that really got me was Anger.

Our leader minced no words . . . "You will have anger. And it WILL come out. And who better for it to come out on than on God?"

So. I have anger. And the truth is, lately, most days I have been avoiding God. Well, actually, I pray all the time. But I've been avoiding His Word. I've been avoiding talking to Him about Olivia. I've really only been praying for other people. And that's because I'm angry.

"It has to come out . . . " Susan says. I guess she's right. It definitely does come out.

It comes out at Maddy when she dallies when I'm trying to get her dressed. It comes out at my house, which for some reason, refuses to remain clean no matter how hard I work at it. It comes out at my friends for any reason and for no reason. It comes out at my husband in every way.

Tonight, when I got home from the meeting, my anger began to build. I tried to eat dinner and be satisfied watching stupid TV. Didn't work. I tried to read a book I was given at my support group. Still not helping. Restless, I got up and began washing dishes . . . getting angrier and angrier. Furiously, I scrubbed at burnt garlic and cheese, dumping the plates loudly in the sink to rinse, before throwing them into the rack with disdain.

In a crescendo of fury, I began hurling whatever was in my reach across my kitchen, longing to demolish something . . . to inflict damage that could never be undone.  Something needed to shatter into pieces . . . the way my life was shattering around me.

I began sobbing into my dish towel and ran outside into the freezing rain, hiding behind our van, and wishing desperately that I could just disappear.

I am so angry that my marriage has been affected so much by losing Olivia. I am angry that I am not the same woman  Ryan married. I'm angry that I am not the same mom I was. I am angry that I feel like I am hurting those I care about the most, and am pushing them away.

I am angry that I do not have a 20-week baby bump. I am angry that I cannot feel Olivia kick and hiccup. I am angry that I have reminders everywhere of what I lost. I am angry that some people have been spared from this pain -- but I have not been spared. I am angry that I cannot get pregnant right now. I am angry that if I do get pregnant, it won't be the same.

I am angry that I often feel lost in myself. I am angry that I so often feel alone -- even as I surround myself with people. I am angry that I can't go back in time.

I am angry that God's best plan includes the death of Olivia. I am angry because He thinks giving me a ministry is better than giving me my baby. I am angry that He had the power to help her grow in my womb . . . but He allowed her to stay in my tube. I am angry that I was so hopeful to begin with.

I am angry that I still sometimes find myself saying the wrong thing to others. And that I don't always have it together.

I am angry that I still struggle with giving myself permission to grieve. I am angry that I cannot rejoice over other people's pregnancies. I am angry that I cry so easily now. I am angry that I always feel the need to be put together and in-control . . . but usually, that is just a facade.

I am angry at sin for bringing death. I am angry for a world that aborts babies and treats life so cruelly. I am angry that any woman has to go through this.

I know I need to figure out how to bring this anger to God, without taking it out on the dishes -- or worse, on my precious family.

I can handle picking up the pieces of my kitchen.

But I don't have the strength to pick up the pieces of a broken marriage, a broken friendship, or a broken daughter.

God help me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Guest Blogger: Response to "Letter to friends with infertility"

I'm so thankful for this precious woman who has chosen to share her story, and delve more into the difficulties in infertility. If you choose to comment, please keep your comments full of love!  -- Rachel

Oh Rachel, thank you. You get infertility as much as you can. And because of that, I come away feeling validated. Validated that my pain is real. Validated that people’s words hurt me even though usually unintentionally. Validated that others could be more careful. 

I would want anyone who has ever questioned my reality to read your letter. It gives good insight about some of what I’m going through. Maybe others wouldn’t judge my actions and reactions as they do if they had any sympathy of the situation. I definitely feel like others dismiss my pain. I have to be guarded now in who I open up to because there are very callous responses from people who don’t understand. 

Just ONE of the crazy things about infertility is that while I am currently dealing with the loss of motherhood, if I ever give birth or adopt, then that loss becomes extinct. Unless a couple is actually told, “You will never have children,” they join the rest of us as we live in this in-between state. We don’t have children but we may have children. In life, we often want definites. Infertility is most certainly a shade of gray, not black or white

After being told we had unexplained infertility, the doctor said, “That is actually a good place to be. Because it doesn’t mean you can’t have children.”

Maybe if I were just told I would never have kids, I could just move on. I would know to grieve over never being pregnant, and then pursue other options. But instead, I live in a waiting game . . . Four years and counting. 

Another issue is how to deal with others' comments. I’ve developed a system of avoidance of painful situations like baby showers and such, but you cannot possibly plan for when someone outright asks you questions or makes comments.

After one rather traumatic interaction, I replayed the whole scenario over and over until I came up with my plan for any future issues. If the person is merely an acquaintance or is not someone I want to open up to, I will say something like, “That is a personal topic and I would not like to discuss it with you.” If they persist, I would reiterate that. If the person is closer, I might say something like, “Well, I would be willing to share with you on that if you want to get coffee sometime.” The latter will be an indication that I do not intend to discuss anything at that time or in an open setting. 

I would like to share that traumatic experience because it was so hurtful, I just need to get it out.

We were at a large gathering on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate the finalization of a baby's adoption. I was fine being there because the couple is older than us and cannot have children. I was holding the baby, when this middle-aged woman I’ll call Rosa came and sat next to me.

Rosa is from Spain, and I knew her from previous employment. She was all smiles and said something like, “When are you having a baby?” 

Because of the language barrier, I couldn’t understand if she was asking when I am due or telling me that I should get started having a family. I am a plus-sized woman, so the former would be an insulting comment regardless of my situation. (It just adds insult to injury to look pregnant because of excess weight and not be). 

I just responded, “No.” She kept asking and commenting for several more minutes, and I just kept saying, “No.” If I had been prepared, I would have told her that is a private matter and I did not want to discuss it with her.

I left that afternoon with all kinds of emotions. I was rather shocked that she continued to press the issue. I tried to tell my husband afterward that I don’t want to be around that person again, and that I was making eyes at him to come rescue me. But he had no clue.

I do try to be merciful when others make hurtful comments, as I am sure that I made many unknowingly harmful comments before I experienced infertility myself. I now find myself SO grateful when meeting new people who DON’T make comments or ask questions.  If you can see that we have no children around us and we haven’t made comments about a babysitter, then it is logical to assume we have no children. I know I will never ask someone about their family status again. I know all too well what it does. 

I do envision what a child with my husband’s and my DNA would look like. But I think, even more than that, I live in fear all the time that one of our parents will pass away without ever meeting our children, or at least one child. 

The more years that pass, the scarier and more real this fear becomes. It is very important to me. My dad’s mother died before I was a year old and I treasure the very few photos there are of her holding me. Even though I never knew her, it means a lot that she met me. I want that for my children. And every woman knows that she needs her mother more than ever when she’s pregnant. Your mom is your best comfort at that time. I would hate to not have my mom around if I ever get to experience pregnancy. 

Infertility is absolutely consuming. I can’t seem to ever shut my brain off. I’m always aware of where I am at in my cycle, when we need to try, what symptoms I’m feeling, and the many whens: when to take medicine, when to get bloodwork, and when the doctor appointments are. 

Any women that ever says they were miserably sick for nine months does not understand that I would LOVE to be miserably sick for nine months knowing that I would have a child. 

I constantly question what God wants from me. What am I doing wrong? What am I supposed to learn? Hasn’t this season lasted long enough? 

I hate this season and I don’t handle it gracefully. The longer I remain here the MORE I sin. Is God waiting for me to have no more jealousy, bitterness, faithlessness, distrust, anger, resentment,self-pity, and lack of joy before he will give me children?  If he’s waiting for that, I know I’ll never have kids. Because every day, I learn of someone else being pregnant, fight with my husband when he’s not compassionate, fear losing my parents, or question God’s best.

I also feel like I have to justify adoption. I want to adopt children. I am strongly convicted as a born-again Christian that I should care for orphans and train them to love God. I want to have a home that more and more children are added to it all the time. I look forward to a large family.

When asked why I don’t adopt right now, my answer is that it would be much easier for my husband and me to learn how to be parents from conception on. If given the opportunity, I want to take advantage of God’s design in the nine months of preparation and the growths tages of a baby.  There’s a slow transformation that takes place in natural parenting. Once we experience that, then it will be so much easier to add more and more children. I never want to have a stigma that we adopted because “we had no other choice.” I want to adopt because I want to adopt. 

I know that you will struggle with key dates having lost your baby. I struggle with dates, too. Especially my birthday.

Last year, several weeks before my birthday, whenever I thought about it, I would burst into tears, because I wanted to have several children by this age!  I am grieving that I will never have children in my 20s. The 30s are scary when it comes to fertility. Time is counting down.

And some holidays are hard, too. Family getting together at Christmas, and it’s another year passed without any grandkids. While on my husband's side, there are now four grandkids, none of whom were around when my husband and I got married. 

I do wish that every pregnant woman would realize that her pregnancy is a source of pain to others. A reminder of what they don't have. A source of jealousy about wanting to be in your place.  And bitterness when you complain about your situation.

I am a very outspoken person, and my infertility has made me understand that everything out of my mouth, on facebook, in a blog, etc., has the potential of hurting others. I HAVE learned this lesson to be careful about my joys or hurts being a stumbling block for someone else. 


If you would like to share your story of pregnancy loss or infertility, please email me your story at renyeart@gmail.com. I can post your story anonymously if you would like. I do reserve the right to edit your post for clarity.

Brittany's Story: Struggles after loss, infertility and a miracle baby.


 Your blog about infertility brought up a lot of emotions in me. I wanted to share my experience and feelings, but they don’t stop at infertility and so I didn’t think it prudent to share in the comments section.

I feel like when we talk or hear about infertility or pregnancy loss, it stops there. However, my experience seems to have continued into how to handle my child. The pain, agony and guilt haven’t gone away from having my miracle baby girl or even from getting pregnant again.

I didn’t know about my fertility before, but I knew that I never had regular periods. It didn’t matter, though, because I was young!

When it took Michael and me 3 years to conceive Madelyn, my whole perspective changed. I charted my cycle, used fertility monitors, had tons of blood work done, had ultrasounds, saw several different doctors, and was finally diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Not the worst diagnosis, but certainly not a good one!

This whole time all my friends, family and acquaintances kept announcing their pregnancies. EVERY single thing you mentioned about infertility in your blog was my experience. We finally decided to try a round of Clomid, but if it didn’t work, we were going to take a break. The stress and emotions for both of us were all-consuming and we didn’t enjoy each other, the process or life in general. I was a wreck!

Well, the Clomid didn’t work, so we threw in the towel. I started to feel better, put my energy into dance, school and work. Lo and behold, when I finally stopped thinking about it, I became pregnant! This was our miracle baby!

Then, like you, Rachel, it seemed like my body tried to get rid of the baby the whole time and I was terrified something awful would happen. I was incredibly sick, on bed rest, in pain, started to develop pre-eclampsia, and was induced . . . TWICE! I had a horrible labor, but then had my perfect baby girl!

But that wasn’t the happy ending I thought it would be. She had jaundice the first 2 weeks of her life. I had to take her in for bloodwork every day, she had the bili lights at home.

Then we had feeding trouble. For almost the first year of her life, she screamed 24/7, wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t sleep. I was the only one who could hold her. We finally found out she had silent reflux. We got her on meds and it helped, but I think her path was paved at that point.

Now she has screaming fits, completely unprovoked, sleeping and eating are still major problems. Her system doesn’t work properly. She has teeth problems from her reflux and prolonged medication usage.

There have been so many times where I have wondered what we did to deserve this? No one else has even the slightest clue what we are going through. People offer well-meaning advice, but it isn’t helpful. We’ve felt like God is punishing us in some way. All I ever wanted was to be a mother, but not like this.

I have shed so many tears and felt so defeated. We have no answers and have so much guilt over being at our wits' end with our dear child! We love her so much and it breaks our hearts to watch her struggle and be in pain and not know how to help her. We struggle with guilt and shame over our responses to her when we just can’t stand the screaming any longer! This is not how things should work out!

I had a miscarriage about a year and a half ago. It wasn’t medically confirmed, but I know for a fact what it was! I couldn’t even allow myself to truly admit what happened or grieve over it. We were trying to avoid pregnancy at the time!

Now, I am pregnant again and things are going much better than with Maddy, but it has been a long, hard 24 weeks so far. The first 15 weeks I wasn’t truly happy about it and then I felt so guilty over feeling that way!

Anyway, all this to say that I feel like the journey, the pain, the frustration never stops! I’m not really sure what to do with all of it. It feels better to be honest with someone about it all. I appreciate you reading.

A note from Rachel: Madelyn's doctors have just discovered what could be a serious medical issue causing some of Madelyn's behavior. Please pray for Brittany, Michael and Madelyn -- pray for wisdom, peace and for Madelyn's health!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sweet gifts!

I have received a few very special, very thoughtful gifts in honor of our Baby Olivia.

Here are some of my favorites:


We received this kit containing an oak tree seedling to plant in honor of Baby Olivia, from my sister Sarah.

We've been faithfully taking care of it -- but we haven't seen any signs of growth until this week. More than two months of watering, and finally, new life sprouts!

This new sapling reminds me of my grief a bit -- weeks and weeks of feeling like there's not "progress" and feeling like you'll be stuck in a rut forever . . . only to have a little bit of hope burst forth unexpectedly.




Today I received this lovely necklace from a friend. It is PERFECT. I have wanted a necklace to remember Olivia by, but never found the right one. I love how tiny the footprint is because I imagine that's how tiny her feet might have been. I love that it's just a little bit longer than I normally wear my necklaces, so it falls close to my heart.

                                                         

My friend Meredith sent me this book, and it came right when I was starting to get angry at God for losing our baby. It was perfect timing. I loved reading about how Jesus also heard God tell him "no." How he, too, knew the unspeakable grief and sorrow in separation and death. How he has also felt the loneliness in grief. This book helped open my eyes to a new side of Jesus and his Father that I hadn't really seen before. And it helped me trust my Savior, and love him, even more.



Last, another favorite gift of mine was the gift of time and hard work that my sister Judy gave me. (Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of this!)

A week after our surgery, she and her family "moved in" for a few days to take care of housework, laundry, cooking and planning Maddy's birthday party. Although I felt guilty watching her slave away at my house, it was so nice to have a clean home to recuperate in! Also, Maddy's birthday might have been a complete flop if it hadn't of been for her.

Thank you all, for the sweet, thoughtful gifts over the last 2 months!


 Here are links in case you are wanting to purchase these gifts for yourself or a friend:


Tree:  http://ww10.1800flowers.com/product.do?baseCode=4867&cm_cid=SEARCH#readmore

 Necklace:  http://www.etsy.com/listing/86335916/baby-foot-necklace-sterling-silver

Book: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_14?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=hearing+jesus+speak+into+your+sorrow+by+nancy+guthrie&sprefix=hearing+Jesus+%2Caps%2C196

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