Thursday, January 11, 2018

happy heaven day, jeremiah.

these are the complete versions of the instagram captions I've been sharing each day leading up to today.

|| January 8, 2017 - Day One || the day, one year ago...we woke up, went to church as usual...came home...I changed, got ready for lunch...went to the restroom...and came out shaking and crying uncontrollably, adrenaline racing through my body. it would be almost four days before we’d learn the truth, but I knew in that instant my baby was gone...I’d never been so shocked, so afraid, so unsure. Josh just held me, we cried, then tried to figure out what to do next. I didn't even have a doctor yet, so my sister-in-law called her midwife, who ended up being a gift straight from heaven and was always on call for me throughout the week, and called in an ultrasound for us for the next day.

|| January 9, 2017 - Day Two || the day we tearfully went up for an ultrasound in Spartanburg in the afternoon...I was starting to feel worse and worse, and more and more in shock...we spent an eternity waiting, then had one (of what would become close to a half dozen in the next year) very invasive ultrasound that left me shaken and emotional...with no answers. The tech was supposed to call my midwife, who was supposed to call us, by the end of the day. But no call came...gratefully. That one final evening of Hope allowed us to spend time with family and friends watching the best college football game of all time, with a peaceful heart. I could NOT have gotten through those days without our precious family and community here - the fact that I even wanted to be around people in the midst of it all shows how much I love and trust these families, how precious they are to us....

|| January 10, 2017 - Day Three || Around nine or nine thirty in the morning, we were still laying in bed, resting, praying, hoping, crying, aching - and we got the phone call confirming our worst nightmare, our baby’s heart had stopped. My midwife told me what to expect...and I blindly thanked her...hung up...turned to Josh and just cried. We didn’t do much else that day...just rested, cried, prayed...my Courtney came and prayed with us...the day was such a blur. By 10pm or so, labor was in full swing. No one really prepared me for how challenging physically it would be - but I’m grateful for Josh, his patience, and unceasing care of his little family during that long night. I won't get graphic, for everyone's sake, and I know everyone has different stories and not every loss is the same, but my labor with Jeremiah was just that  - it was labor. I started noticing a pattern to the pain, realized it was legitimate contractions, and they came exactly three minutes apart for hours. It was excruciating, and emotionally exhausting, since my body had switched into "lets get this baby born" mode during contractions, and then I would be crying uncontrollably during my "breaks" because my heart knew this meant I never WOULD meet this baby. I had no idea how long this would last - would it be short? long? take one night? take three days? I had no clue. I kept trying to lay down and sleep, but eventually, by late evening, I knew I had to stay awake and finish this out, whatever it took.
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There was sweet healing and closure today, a year later...right about the exact time we got the phone call telling us Jeremiah was gone last year, I was in my midwife’s office this morning, hearing our little Rainbow’s heartbeat thumping away. And I’ve never been more grateful for that sound than I am right now 💛 Jeremiah’s sonogram picture by my bed greets me every morning, reminding me of my precious first pregnancy, and how his story keeps on, and the ways he keeps blessing us.

|| January 11, 2017 - Day Four || all through the night, we sat on the bathroom floor while I labored for our little one. during those hours, I realized this was the last act I would do with my body for my child, and even though it wasn't the right time, or the way I would choose, I was determined to be brave and spend my strength for this baby I loved. Josh put on quiet music, just like we planned to when our baby was due, and we cried and prayed...I sang the songs through gritted teeth to help with pain, and it's crazy to say, but I look back at those hours as some of the most intense, most peaceful, of my entire life. it was absolutely beautiful - even in the grief and pain. isn't that just like Jesus, though?
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at two am, after an entire day of pain and four-ish hours of labor, my little one was born. Josh and I both knew the instant it was over, within thirty minutes, I was ready to go back to bed. it was finished. we were both so exhausted it didn't really sink in till the morning that our Jeremiah was no longer inside of me, no longer with us, and we had to begin the process of moving forward - not forgetting, but learning to live with our new reality.

So, today, January 11, 2018, is the first anniversary of Jeremiah's Heaven Day. I remember wondering how I would feel a year later, if I would still be struggling with depression, if I would even have hope... and I'm so grateful that even though my heart feels tired remembering all these moments, and realizing it was just a short year ago, I'm grateful we have learned to Hope. that we are learning to overcome Fear. and that we know Jesus in such a deeper way than ever before.

We have a little angel watching over us, a little one we whispered goodbye to twelve months ago today, who we should be whispering good morning to as an almost five month old this morning. But we treasure his memory, we call him by name, and no matter how many children we have, he will always be our first positive test, our first child we dreamed of, our first baby we named, and our first family heartbreak.

We love you, Jeremiah. Happy Heaven Day!

// written by his wonderful Aunt Kate in Germany  for his Heaven Day //

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

pregnancy after loss - a guide to staying sane.

By the time this gets published, I'll be fifteen weeks pregnant with our miraculous "rainbow baby." This has been quite the year, quite the pregnancy, and I'm so overwhelmed with gratefulness for every single day I get to keep this child warm and safe in my womb. I've spent eight months of my marriage pregnant, and have yet to hold a baby in my arms, so the fact that I've made it this far is something I wake up daily thankful for.

Pregnancy after loss is no joke, and I've gone through it twice in the past twelve months.

When I was pregnant with my precious Daniella, I was still carrying some regret for worrying so much with my first pregnancy, so I jumped into her life hook, line and sinker. I loved every bit of it. Rejoiced through every milestone, every second. Celebrated the life I had in my womb with every fiber of my Mama Bear heart. I bought an outfit for her, we told family quickly and it never really crossed my mind that I'd go from being in the 25% of women who have had miscarriages, to the 1% who have two in a row. The day I started bleeding, I went into denial. I couldn't process this was happening again, almost a full month further along in pregnancy than my first....in the three days that followed, the confusion, the mis-diagnosis, the emergency ER visit where my baby was ultimately delivered, I firmly believed she was going to be just fine, and that it was "just a scare". Leaving the hospital with an empty womb was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever done.


Ten weeks later, I found out I was pregnant again. So fast. Right on the heels of a still gaping wound. I wasn't excited. It was our anniversary, I'd had some faint positives for a day or two, didn't really think much of it, then finally told Josh we should get a "real test"...and when it that BLARING, bright  second line showed up, I cried - more out of fear than anything else.

October 16, 2017 - our 1st wedding anniversary 
A positive test no longer equalled a baby to me anymore.

The first couple weeks, I was in frequent pain, stretching cramps all over that kept me from resting and kept my heart from unwinding. It felt like weeks and weeks of holding my breath. I felt guilty for not even caring to know this baby - I just wanted them to stay alive. No joy, no excitement over their purpose, no speculating on who they might grow up to be...just daily fear that today would be the day I'd lose them. I went to the bathroom on average five times a day (including at night) - every single time, my adrenaline would kick in, my heart rate would sky rocket, and I'd be shaking...trying to get in and out as fast as humanly possible, praying the whole time I wouldn't be bleeding. Five times a day. Or more. Not just for one week. Not just for seven. Not for ten. But TWELVE weeks, that was my routine. Five times seven times twelve. That's roughly 420 bathroom visits in pure fear. NOT FUN AT ALL.

Even though miscarriage yes, is relatively common, and yes, your body does recover, sometimes faster than others...that doesn't mean that emotionally healing comes quickly at all, and anyone who has lost a child in utero can attest that their memory sticks with you forever, and your life is permanently altered the minute you realize your precious baby preceded you to heaven.

There have been so many things over the past eight months that helped me with both of my pregnancies after loss, and that I still draw on as I carry this little Miracle in my womb. I want to share them, in the hope and prayer that if you're walking a similar road, it could be an encouragement that you're not the only one.

These are pretty specific to the First Trimester of pregnancy, since that's basically all I've ever done, and also since both of my losses occurred in the first trimester, so that's been the most stressful part of pregnancy for me thus far.

For each of these's DON'Ts, I have a DO - to help you proactively set yourself up to succeed emotionally and mentally as you carry your rainbow baby.

1. DON'T GOOGLE
Please try not to, for your sake and your spouse's! This being my third pregnancy, I've pretty much googled all I could for my first two babies anyway, so I didn't really feel like I needed to...but still...the struggle was intense. Remember that MOST people who feel the need to share their every symptom on a social media forum are the Worst Case Scenario people - women who have had ten miscarriages in a row, or had horrific hematomas and scary bleeding, etc. I'm not negating their stories AT ALL, I can't even imagine the pain and the fear...but remember that they are in a very low percentage of the general population, and unless you've been diagnosed with one of those conditions by your midwife or doctor, your baby is probably just fine.

- instead -

DO COLLECT AFFIRMATIONS
I created a Pinterest board for Jeremiah when we said goodbye last January...and then added Daniella's name after her Heaven Day in July - and I've used that space to collect words and pictures and ideas that put a voice to my grief, my pain, and my healing as I've processed their deaths over the past year. When I was still pregnant with Daniella, I created my "rainbow baby" board - and started collecting affirmations of hope and strength and joy to keep me grounded while I carried her. And even though she left us too early as well, I was grateful that my mind had stayed centered on hope and I had something tangible to show for it. This pregnancy has been SO MUCH HARDER to stay focused on Hope and Joy and to really celebrate, but I've faithfully added to that Baby Rainbow board, continued to search for affirmations of pregnancy, birth, recovery, and poems, Scripture verses, songs, even just artwork to help my heart and my mind reflect the life I want to live.



Also, if I absolutely HAD to read something, some kind of article or story, I stayed in my pregnancy apps (love The Bump and Ovia!) and read all their articles for each day of my baby's development - all the exciting things going on inside of me, and dwelling on that, instead of reading about miscarriage stats and what else could possibly go wrong.

A verse that comes to mind:
"What is TRUE, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is admirable, THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS." - Philippians 4:8
Keep your mind filled with what your heart desires, keep your eyes on the things above, and even if your emotions are still lagging behind, it's amazing how much more uplifted and encouraged you'll feel if you spend your time reading and looking at hopeful content, instead of fear-instilling words.

2. DON'T PUSH YOURSELF
For me, I went into my second pregnancy full force. I worked out during all ten weeks, was on top of my heath and my social life, just did the whole shebang. And yeah, I felt pretty good...but then crashed hard when I lost my baby.

When I got pregnant with Baby3 (affectionately dubbed "Wall-E" around here), I had no motivation whatsoever, other than a panicky, fear driven desire to keep them alive. I went straight to my midwife, started on progesterone, and then quit doing everything. Everything. I mean, I also had crippling morning sickness, but I didn't work out, didn't do much outside the house, barely was able to get meals up for Josh, went shopping only once a week...just kinda shut down for a while. I spent a lot of time sleeping, a lot of time just sitting and watching movies or reading or organizing little things...a whole lot of nothing. And you know what, I'm okay. I'm still healthy. My nausea is fading and my energy is returning and I did start working out again this week, but I didn't push myself to just  "be okay" all of a sudden simply because I was pregnant again. I knew my heart and my body needed time to keep recovering from my losses, and that spending a month or two laying low would be best for me and my little family in the long run. Don't feel like you have to be superwoman right away if you're dealing with fear...sometimes being busy distracts us, sometimes it causes unnecessary worry that you're doing too much. If you don't feel like it, DON'T. You'll have PLENTY of time once you start feeling better and gaining confidence to work out and get back on top of meal plans and house work and such.

sooo...

REST AND RECEIVE
I've been blessed with an amazing community of friends and a wonderful family who have been there for me 100% during all three of my pregnancies. I don't know where I'd be without their love and support and care for Josh and I, and the way my friends ask me how I'm doing and tell me that they love and miss Jeremiah and Daniella and are so excited for Wall-E warms my soul. Giving myself space didn't mean shutting people out, but it did mean a break from social media, from outside-the-house obligations, and even from housework. We told our friends and family right away that we were pregnant, and it's been so good for my heart to be free to share with them how I'm feeling, ask for prayer when it's hard, and celebrate when we're excited, but to stay in our little community bubble for those first three months until I was more confident. Also, we've had some *uhhhhmaaaazing* prophecies and words of life spoken over this child by dear friends and people we didn't even know - and as a mama dealing with fear, to be able to sit back and let others speak into my child's life (literally speaking TO my belly - looking at you K, haha!) when I didn't have the words was so incredibly grounding and healing. These past three months have been painfully beautiful as I wrestled fear and anxiety and also was overwhelmed by the love and confidence and faith of Josh and others.

I also took time to just drive, enjoy nature, spend days in peace and quiet, and soak up LIFE. All good things....all healing, low-key things.



3. DON'T FEEL GUILTY
I wasn't excited when I found out about Wall-E. I wasn't. And ohhh did I feel guilty. In fact, my worry over Jeremiah led to six months of regret because I felt like I hadn't rejoiced over him the way I should, and I so didn't want to have that happen again, even though emotionally I was struggling to be happy. But my dear friend Courtney reminded me that even if I wasn't quite excited yet, we had faith that this baby would be our Rainbow, and that means I'll have all the time in the world to celebrate my little one. So if you're not really excited yet, don't worry - just keep on keeping on, fill your mind with words of hope, and pray for Jesus to bring the excitement and joy when it's time.

but...

DO CELEBRATE YOUR BABY
Even if you don't feel like it. Because it's worth it.

This may seem like a contradiction to what I just said above, haha, but REALLY. Once again, you'll never regret celebrating like you'll regret fear and worry. In those early weeks of carrying Wall-E, because I knew I would feel better if I did, I loaded myself up in the car early one morning, got my Chick-fil-A hash brown bowl, and hit our amazing local thrift store and found our baby a little outfit. I think it's technically a little girl onesie, and we aren't planning on finding out gender at all this pregnancy, but it didn't matter. It was an act of faith for my trembling heart, and it made the world of difference. I've not had many words to journal this time around, but one night I stayed up late and just copied out affirmations and verses into my journal for this baby...emotionally it was challenging, but it helped my heart. And when I officially hit 13 weeks, and said au reviour to that horribly challenging first trimester (!!!) I walked into the BABY DEPARTMENT of J.C. Penney and bought my very first, brand new, outfit JUST for this child - just like any other mom, and I almost cried for joy. And now, looking back, I'm so grateful I forced myself to celebrate, even if I didn't feel happy, because it's helped my healing process so much.

happy 2nd trimester to Baby Wall-E and me!

Along those lines as well, I've used these month of healing to go back and celebrate my other two children even more, by completing their shadow boxes, creating a memory box of all the beautiful cards and letters and gifts sent by their loving grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends, and even the precious members from Samaritan Ministries who helped cover my emergency ultrasounds and ER bill, to commemorate their lives. On their due dates, we celebrate, on their Heaven Days, I have things planned to celebrate, and we hold them close in our hearts. I have necklaces and print outs that are specifically theirs, and I plan to share their stories with Wall-E when he/she's old enough - since their lives play into his in such a deep and crucial way. I've even had custom artwork made for them - little things add up and pour gold in the cracks of a broken heart.

(and yes, for those of y'all who have sharp eyes, Daniella's Heaven Day is actually different on this graphic - the 28th is the day I actually went to the ER and delivered her, but I started miscarrying on the 26th, so back in August and September I was still using both dates interchangeably, although now we officially call her Heaven Day the 28th)

So even if your heart is tired, find something small to celebrate about the New Life in your womb. How ever simple it is, you WILL find confidence and healing in it.

Thanksgiving Day 2017 - eight weeks pregnant with Wall-E, but tearfully missing my would-be three month old and my should-be six month baby bump.

To wrap up, here are a few other practical things I've done with this pregnancy to help me stay centered and hopeful even in the roller-coaster of emotions and the ongoing grief from our losses:

- Ask for an early ultrasound. Not every clinic does them, but it doesn't hurt to ask. My new midwife actually does them routinely, so that was easy for us. It does cost more, but if you have insurance or do medical sharing it should cover it...and honestly you can't put a price on seeing your wiggly little bean on that sonogram and hear their beating heart as early as 7 or 8 weeks along. The day we "met" Wall-E for the first time was a magical day for this tired, soul-weary mama.


- Don't be embarrassed to borrow or buy a home doppler. I know there's hesitation to do this, I never thought I'd be "that mom", but borrowing my friend's Doppler for this pregnancy has been just about the best thing in the world. Of course, every midwife and nurse ever is going to beat me over the head for recommending getting one - simply because a Doppler can cause unnecessary anxiety or fear if you *can't* find a heartbeat...but if you're like me, and you just want the weekly or bi-weekly reassurance of hearing your little one, and you know that if you think or feel that something is wrong you CALL YOUR MIDWIFE before you freak out, then I say, there's no harm in it and go ahead. And as long as you're not doing five times a day, there shouldn't be any reason to think it'll harm your baby at all. For real...being able to hear Wall-E on days when I so needed to has been the sweetest gift.

Take your prenatal and DRINK WATER. Take responsibility for your health as much as you're able. I couldn't keep down much food at all until recently, but I always took my prenatal and my vitamin D, and when I could eat, I tried to make sure I ate as healthily as I could...in between hamburger cravings, ha! I also drink about 95-100 ounces of water a day...it helps with EVERYTHING. Just do your best, and by taking control of little things, it helps chip away at the anxiety overall.

- Take your medicine. I hate medication. I'm allergic to waaaay too many antibiotics to be comfortable taking one without a REALLY good reason. But when I got a very mild UTI a couple weeks ago, I went right into my midwife, and took my six days of antibiotics without complaining. Apparently infections of that sort can be the leading cause of pre-term labor, or late miscarriages (who knew)...and I'm not taking chances. I also did my research between my losses, and pretty much self-diagnosed myself with hormone imbalances, and started taking supplements (which I firmly believe led to me conceiving Wall-E so quickly after Daniella), and I asked to be on progesterone, which both of my midwives recommended anyway. Even though my blood work came back perfect, my progesterone wasn't even all that low, we went ahead and put me on it, and I've taken it from 5 weeks until now, with two weeks left. Is that why this baby is okay? I don't know. I also believe in the healing power and miraculous work of Jesus, so who's to say, but I know that swallowing my all-natural crunchy pride and taking my medicine actually has built my confidence and calmed my anxiety since I knew I was doing everything I could for this little one based on the facts we had.

- Make a playlist. Music is my love language, and I have playlist for every season I've walked - a musical testimony of my mountains and valleys for all of my teenage and adult life. When my brain gets cloudy with fears or lies or anxiety, I turn on songs that articulate where I want my soul to be. The Spirit can "interpret our groaning", and so much of this goes back to what I said earlier about filling your mind with good, true and lovely things. I'm a little eclectic in my taste, but here's my "Baby Wall-E" playlist, to give you an idea of what I mean:


Well, that turned into a MUCH longer post than I anticipated, but hey, I have a lot of words now...and so much more I want to share. I really want to write a post about TTC after loss (trying to conceive) because that was the source of so much of my pain this past year, aside from our actual losses, and I know I'm not the only one, but all in due time!

15 WEEKS with Wall-E

Much love to you all, and thank you to each and every one of you who has loved us, rejoiced with us, wept with us, and stood with our little family throughout the past fourteen months. We cherish you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

on Hope and the Adventures of the Year Twenty-Two.

Well, technically twenty three. Since I'm starting my twenty-fourth year tomorrow. (*cue shriek of panic because I'm sooo not ready for that*) But that's CONFUSING even though it's accurate, so for the sake of simplicity, since I am for real TURNING 23 tomorrow, we'll call this the year of 22.

This has been a year for the books. In every conceivable way.

And I have struggled - majorly - in the past couple days to even get excited about my birthday. Because even though this year was amazing, and we've come so far and done so much since my birthday last year when we were just freshly married honeymooners in the backwoods of Vermont, this year was disappointing, painful, heartbreaking and tough. And for some reason, I want to do twenty-two again and fix all the hurting places, instead of letting it go, celebrating the beautiful, and starting fresh. But I'll get there, I will. Keep in mind that writing this post is my therapy, so it should get progressively cheerful-er by the end. *wink*

photo by Jess Lapp Photography

We've been on 10+ legitimate overnight trips this year. We are crazy. And somehow we are not broke. In all, I want to say it's been twenty-three states and two countries (three if you count the USA, ha) - which is completely insane.

FLYING OVER WASHINGTON ON OUR WAY TO IDAHO - JANUARY 2017

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 2017

FORT COLLINS, COLORADO - AUGUST 2017

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain



 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA - DECEMBER, FEBRUARY, AND MAY 2017



HONEYBROOK, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 2017

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 2017 

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous



 

photo by Tony Nisly
CRUISE TO MEXICO, CUBA AND KEY WEST, FL - SEPTEMBER 2017
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

ARK ENCOUNTER, CINCINNATI, OHIO - OCTOBER 2017

MY VERY FIRST MLB GAME - ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JUNE 2017

It's been an incredible year of loving every second of life beside my best friend, of wandering through other places, eating amazing food and collecting memories we'll always treasure. 

We also set up our first home - lived in the midst of multiple renovations to make it feel like a home - and had a blast being "adults" and making a "space" our place. My little homemaker heart has been in heaven - even though meal planning is SOOO not as easy as I was hoping it would be, blah, but grocery shopping is really fun YAY because of ALDI Y'ALL. (and although I always remember my quarter, I always forget my bags. can't win 'em all.)






And our little home has also seen it's fair share of tears and heartache.

And this year I've said heart-wrenching goodbyes to two precious babies that grew in my tummy for too short a time - my firstborn, Jeremiah, should be two months old right now, and my precious rainbow baby, Daniella, should be almost halfway cooked, due six weeks into the New Year. 


My body failed me, and something I sort of assumed would come easily, has turned into the biggest challenge of my life. I never understood depression, self-hatred, and how much grief can change your life so drastically. There's something profoundly broken about coming to terms with your own weakness, your own lack. 

Getting real: I've gained eighteen pounds this year. I'm not saying that for you to tell me I don't "look it" or that I'm beautiful or anything - it's not a plea for sympathy. I'm being honest. But for the first time, numbers on a scale began to mean something, began to scream at me. The weight that went on to nourish my babies, stayed on to remind me daily that I lost them. The outfits that got tight, that got me excited that they may never fit again because I was going to be a mama, now leave me crying on the closet floor because no one tells you how grief sneaks into something as stupid as caring about a clothing size. I've tried working out, I've tried eating healthier than ever before, trying to regain control of what I felt I had lost. It's been a nightmare. I've written about it some, instagram has been an outlet and a journal, but my own journals have been empty, my blog quiet, even some relationships have been pushed the back burner as I've had to come to terms with this new identity that comes from loss. Sometimes you have to admit that something hurts, that it's hard, in order to even begin to heal. I've thrown my phone across the room because of someone's pregnancy announcement on Facebook, wept over baby pictures of a child due the same week as mine was supposed to be. But I've also had moments of pure joy playing with my nieces and nephews and rejoicing over other's new little ones on the way...okay, pause, as I'm writing this I'm realizing....can we just have a moment of silence for all women dealing with jacked up hormones? They are real, they can be wonderful, but they are also bipolar and psychotic and GOOD NIGHT. *mic drop* Back to story.

I'm not here to complain. Or even to make you feel sorry for me. Or even to vent.

I'm here, and I'm writing this, because Jesus is turning this into a TESTIMONY. This is part of my story, and I don't want to forget it. 

There is a thread of hope that's been running underneath of this entire year.

It's this crazy idea that we have a purpose, a name, a place that goes deeper than anything we see in our physical lives. It has nothing to do with we can or can't do, or what we look like, or even our story. And it has everything to do Love. A love that compelled the Hands that gave us life to reach into our pain and our brokenness and tell us we are cherished, we are valuable, and we were created for something BIGGER than just ourselves.


I had never actually looked my faith square in the eye and said, "I BELIEVE." Because belief only counts when you don't have anything left to give. When everything inherently going for you falls away. It's easy to believe when life is going well. It's when you CAN'T see what's going on, or what's happening next, that FAITH matters.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. - Hebrews 11 
(go read the whole chapter. it's worth it.)

And lo and behold, we aren't just in this life to be "happy", or to get what we want. If you ask me what I want the most for YOU in life, I would NOT tell you I want you to be happy. That's fake, cheap, and doesn't mean anything in the long run. I would tell you I want you to know you are LOVED BY JESUS. That's it. Because if you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are loved by Jesus, you WILL be able to overcome the brokenness and pain that this hurting world tosses at you. I'm learning that JOY doesn't mean laughing and happy all the time - it means rest and security and knowing who we are, why we're here, and Who is holding us in His hand. It goes beyond miscarriage, beyond depression, beyond grief, beyond weight, beyond relationships. *deep breath* And if we have our eyes open to see what Jesus is up to in everything, He can show us how He is lifting us above our circumstances and into His peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4
We just spent the weekend celebrating our anniversary in Savannah and Charleston. We slept, and we slept, (we don't sleep enough at home) and we talked, and we were quiet, and I drank water (cause I'm bad at remembering to do that, and Josh was around 24/7 to remind me) and it was a retreat from the crazy and it was beautiful.




We got sucked into This Is Us (no regrets!) and in those very first episodes, as I watched Jack and Rebecca grieve the baby they lost, even as they celebrated the lives they were given, so many broken pieces healed in my mind. I want to share more about that someday - there's a lot more to that story.

We capped it off by worshiping with Bethel Music for almost an entire day - and Jesus sealed it with His reminder that we are seen, we are loved, and He is with us, no matter what.

This year has been RAW. Real and raw. But aren't they all? I'm finding that out. And in just an short hour, I'll be starting another one. I have so much hope right now that unfulfilled dreams will come true, that healing is coming (has already started), and that beauty will rise from what feel like ashes.


But I'm also learning, as this year closes, that HOPE makes everything, even our pain, beautiful. And I'm about to spend the last little bit of being twenty two snuggling with the patient man who works his butt off everything single day to put food on our table and gas in our car - the man who has held me while I labored with both of our children, wept with me in our loss, and made me laugh harder than anyone I've ever known. I told him today, when he apologized that we're barely going to see each other tomorrow, that he's the greatest gift I've ever been given in this life. And he has always always always pointed me upwards and outwards when my eyes felt glued on myself. He's given me hope, he lives by Hope, and he's showing me how too.


So, tonight I'll go to sleep (late) 22, and wake up (early) 23, and Josh will be waking up (before me) beside me and Jesus is still on the Throne and twenty-three maybe maaaaayyyybe won't be quite so hard as twenty-two, even though I'm fully expecting it to be a doozy of a year in its own right, because they always are and being an adult is totally unicorns and butterflies. (right?).

Happy birthday to me...and are there any songs about being 23, 'cause let's be real, I'm gonna miss feeling 22...

*realizes forgot to take off makeup and decides to stay up all night because whyyyy who wants to use a remover wipe when you're already ready for bed. blah.* #hashtagSTILLAKIDYALL

Friday, August 11, 2017

remembering our angel babies

I firmly believe the Lord turns all our pain for good. Sometimes it's hard to see right away, but He is faithful to His children, and we can rest confidently knowing He's never left us, even in our darkest moments.

I'm a mama who's suffered through multiple miscarriages. I hate that I have any experience in this area, but I do. I've gone through the joys of my very first pregnancy test, and the deep loss of innocence that is saying goodbye to your first child. I've gone through the roller coaster of hormones and five months of waiting to carry another baby. I've gone through the emotions of a rainbow pregnancy (getting pregnant after a loss) - the fear, the joy, the excitement, the determination to enjoy every second. And then the devastation of losing that baby too.

I don't have any living biological children, and that's hard. Sometimes I feel like it would be easier if I could throw myself into caring for a child right now, instead of the painful, stark emptiness of a quiet home.

But something Jesus has been showing me since losing Daniella, is that I *am* still a Mama. And that it's completely normal and healthy to celebrate that. I went through two labors, both incredibly intense and painful and traumatic, I gave birth to two children, and with both pregnancies I had to wear maternity clothes and adjust my personal life to accommodate my growing little ones. I was a mama then, I'm a mama now, and I've found so much beauty in embracing my pregnancies and my stories and the lives of my children.

Since sharing about Jeremiah's life back in January, I've heard so so many of y'alls stories of loss and grief, and while I know not everyone is a blogger, or feels comfortable sharing personal details, I feel like the Lord has given me words and a platform and I want to use them to help those of y'all who are walking similar roads, and want to celebrate and remember your babies, but aren't sure how.

*note, this isn't a sponsored post, just me sharing what we've found is meaningful for us!

1. Willow Tree figurines
When I found out I was pregnant with Jeremiah, I was really nervous. I spent a lot of those seven weeks worried I was going to lose him. I held off on so many things, sort of unspokenly waiting for that all-elusive end of the first trimester before I let myself get excited. When I lost him, it shook my world, and I instantly had regrets about not celebrating his little life fully before it ended. So in the weeks following, my husband and I made a conscious effort to do things that honored the life of our baby.

We had a Willow Tree figurine from our wedding, of a husband and wife. When we were out shopping one day, not even a week after the miscarriage, we were in a boutique shop and saw a Willow Tree figurine sitting on a shelf...an angel helping a little baby walk. I started crying when I saw it...it felt like a perfect gift from Jesus to remember our little one.


The day after we lost Daniella, Josh and I hopped online to find the perfect figurine for her too, to add to our little family. We picked one of another angel holding a baby in her arms - it looked so tender and represented what I was longing to do with my precious daughter.

The Willow Tree figures are so beautiful, so poignant...I'm thankful for the tradition we inadvertently started, a tradition we'll be able to continue with any future children as well. I love our little "family" on our dresser.

 

2. Buy an Outfit

Once again, with Jeremiah, I didn't really do much while I was pregnant to celebrate him, but afterwards I learned so much. I went out to the store a couple weeks afterwards to buy him an outfit that was all his. Something that was specifically for him. Even though it was hard to go to the baby section and buy something with an empty womb, it was also healing to acknowledge the fact that I did have a baby, just not with me, and that he was real.

As SOON as I found out I was pregnant with Daniella, within a week, or so, I went to the store and bought an outfit for her as well, this time with all the joy and hope in the world of our precious rainbow baby. And, once again, even after we had to say goodbye, it was so incredibly healing to have that outfit that stood for our hope and our love for her, even before she was born.



3. Make a Shadow Box
Mine are still a work in progress, but this has been such a fun way to pull together all my little mementos for each child into one framable, hangable memory. It's also something that I could do for any future children - I love the idea of things that carry into any future pregnancies, a way to unite these first two little ones with their future siblings. A shadow box is definitely more hands on and creative, but it was fun to shop for things to decorate with, and spend time arranging each box to look different and unique.


4. Remembrance Jewelry
On Mother's Day this past year, one of the most emotional days I've walked through in the recent past, a dear friend gave me a gift at church, and it was the sweetest little necklace. A tree with a little heart - and somehow it instantly felt like that little heart stood for my heart, for Jeremiah's heart, for the heart Josh and I have for family...and I pretty much haven't taken it off since. (except for the brief weeks it got left behind in Ohio, so glad to have it returned now!)

After Daniella, we found a beautiful necklace with customizable nest and initials on etsy. I decided to go with white eggs (versus birthstone colors), to represent our angels and it turned out perfectly. Another piece of jewelry that reminds me of who I am, where my heart is, and how valuable our children's lives were, and still are.



5. Stuffed Animal(s)
I love stuffed animals, I loved collecting them as a child, I love having them around our home now. My dear friend Kaitlin makes these adorable little owls as a fundraiser for Downs Syndrome awareness, and I commissioned her to make these two for our sweet babies. My heart was to have something that was special, that "belonged" to them, and once again, something would connect them to our future children as well.

Also, little plug for KK, her website for the owls is HERE - and here's a post I did years and years ago with the first Henry owl I bought, and why they matter so much to me. It's so important to me to use the lives of my babies as a platform for advocating for the life of other children who are at risk, and so it was no-brainer to use Kaitlin's owls as part of our remembrance of our little ones.


6. Name your CHILD.
Not everyone feels comfortable with this, and I understand, but to me, it was so so important to acknowledge that our children had beating hearts, eternal souls, and purposeful lives, by giving them names. We chose names for our babies that we were actually going to name them anyway (most likely), and then used middle names that reflected the purpose we felt Jesus had laid on their lives. Here's our babies name stories, as a source of encouragement or inspiration to y'all.

Jeremiah Chayyim - Jesus gave us the name "Jeremiah" to call our baby while he was in utero...there was a night about a week before I miscarried where I was dealing with a lot of fear in regards to the baby, and Josh and I took the evening to just sit and pray and thank Jesus for the life He'd entrusted to us. Josh opened his bible to Jeremiah 1, and there's a verse that says that God called Jeremiah from the womb to be a prophet, and placed a calling on his life before he was born. It was so comforting to me, as a mama, to know that God KNEW our child, had a calling on their life, and LOVED him so much to give us a name like that to call him. Six days later, our baby was in heaven and we were comforted by knowing Jesus had given us a name for him, and that His calling was still there. Jeremiah means "the Lord exalts" or "the Lord raises"....and "Chayyim" means "LIFE" in Hebrew. The Lord Raises Life. Even though Jeremiah only lived a couple weeks, he was a gift of Life to us.

Daniella Rapha - Daniel is a family name on Josh's side, and since we were pretty sure we were having a girl, from day one, we were tweaking some of the family names to see if we could make them work for a little girl too. We actually had a pretty solid list of little girl names we were thinking about for this baby, even at ten weeks. We never talked about names with Jeremiah, but we did with this little one and I'm so glad! So Daniella was on the top of the list, and every time we jokingly called her some other name, it felt weird, and we always came back to our top pick. I have no doubt that that would've been her name at birth, so it was given when picking her name after she passed away. "Daniella" means "God is my Judge" - and when you think about how God sees us when He judges us, it's actually tear-jerkingly beautiful, this redemptive righteousness that covers us. Rapha means "HEALER" in Hebrew, and all through my pregnancy and even in the days leading up to the miscarriage, including our midnight race to the ER the night she was born, every song, every scripture, every word of encouragement from others, had something to do with healing. So we stood for it, believed it, and even after we said goodbye, we claimed God as our Healer and gave that testimony to our daughter to carry.

Also, there are testimonies from our own immediate family members who went back years later and named little ones that they lost, as a way of healing, even decades later. So if you're still dealing with pain from un-grieved little ones in your past, I encourage you to consider giving them a name. No matter what the circumstance, or what happened, they are still your children, they are still precious in the eyes of God, and they are valuable, and worthy of being remembered.


Also, I have a friend who lost her precious daughter at 40 weeks, and over the past seven years, has written her little girls name in the sand all over the place, and now so many people all over the world have been writing her name and remembering her, and Hannah collects them all and has them in a scrapbook. There IS something healing about writing your baby's name out, and then there's indescribable feeling when OTHER PEOPLE remember and love your child enough to write their name and send it to you...it's precious. 

Finally, don't be afraid to talk about your children. Use their name, or tell their story. You were pregnant, you are a mama, and there's a beauty when we as a church, as a people, remember these lives we love so dearly.

I hope this encouraged y'all as you walk through your own journeys - feel free to add your own ways you remember your children in the comments...I love hearing stories of others, and what they've done to honor their babies, and how they've walked through grief. There is strength in community, y'all! I believe it!

There so many hard days - days when I just curl up and cry and grieve my empty womb, but I'm so thankful for the freedom to still rejoice, and for the hope I have in Jesus Christ that He is close to the brokenhearted, that He carries us in our pain, and redeems our brokenness. That's ultimately how we stay grounded when our world crashes around us, and even when we can't always see how in the world He's going to heal our hearts, we can trust that He always will. The pain doesn't get easier, but our Hope gets stronger. Remember, there is no emotion, no feeling, no pain you're walking through that Abba Father didn't walk through when He lost His only Son. This is close to His heart, this IS His heart, and He is with us as we share in His suffering. He is the Healer.