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.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

celebrating life, as early as possible

- NOTE: I wrote this post the week I found out I was pregnant with Daniella. For whatever reason, I decided NOT to share it, and I wish I had. But here it is, in it's entirety, a slice of my mama's heart from June 2017, celebrating the life of my daughter fearlessly from day one. - 

so, dear friends, this is a post that I've wanted to write for months, and had days where I felt like I'd be writing it soon, and other days when I wondered if it would ever be able to be.

it's been almost six months since our sweet Jeremiah went to be with Jesus. His due date is just around the corner, and instead of spending these blazing hot summer days being very pregnant and hiding in the air conditioning, I've been very capable of being a normal person and doing all kinds of activities....all the while being conflictedly trying to enjoy them and also deeply grieving the change of plans. 

As most of you know, this is has been a very very difficult season for me. I know not everyone feels this type of loss the same, but Jeremiah's life has been one of the most pivotal points in mine, and he's changed how I view pretty much everything and everyone I see.

For example, I will never see anyone's family the same again. Growing up conservative, where the unstated "gospel" can be the number of children you have seems to equal your depth of spirituality or trust in Jesus, it can be easy to miss the invisible pain of the woman with two children, or no children, who you might think has made that choice for her own selfish reasons, who may actually be longing for the family you have and can't. Or the couple with a beautiful rainbow family, heroes who foster or adopt - that we immediately respect (with good reason)...but whose own tribe is the redemptive fruit of years of loss or barrenness, grief and pain. Or the young couple who didn't get pregnant right after their wedding, who may or may not be "waiting" to have kids....you don't know their life, their dreams, their struggles. You don't. Rarely is anyone's story what it appears to be.

Also, I will never view my own children the same. I'm thankful and blessed to be a mama to over a dozen children who weren't born to me, who I don't see daily, who live all over the globe. My heart belongs to them, and not a day goes by that I don't think of them or pray for them or wonder what they're doing and who tucks them in at night. But my dream is to have children here, living with me, in my home - whether they're born from my body or not. But I never guessed my journey to having children from my own self would look like this....and instead assuming that I *would* give birth to children someday, now I hold that so loosely in my hand...and I will never take any precious baby given to us by birth for granted. Not that I would've before, but you know what I mean.

Which is why, dear friends, when Josh and I found out two weeks ago that we're expecting our rainbow baby, our first reaction was pure excitement and joy. And even though we sat on our special secret for almost a week before telling anyone, it wasn't because we didn't want to share...we just couldn't hardly believe it. SO many tears, y'all. So many.

Being pregnant after loss isn't easy. I was afraid of being afraid, and was pleasantly and wonderfully surprised by the joy I've felt since those two lines appeared on that test. But every day, going to the restroom is a little nerve-wracking...every cramp and ache and pain (which I am SO THANKFUL FORRRR - pregnancy symptoms make me cry with joy) makes me nervous...and I do have a mental countdown in my head to the weeks gestation that I lost Jeremiah, and my one prayer is to get past that date. 

But as Josh reminded me the day after we found out about our Little Rainbow, this baby deserves the same joy and love that we had for Jeremiah. And now that we have lost a baby, we know even more how precious life truly is. So instead of waiting, and being afraid of what might happen, we are choosing to celebrate this life to the fullest for every single day we are blessed with him or her. And if that's for sixty years or sixty days, we're beyond thrilled and thankful. We are parents of two beautiful children, and we are grateful.


celebrating the life of Daniella Rapha - born into the arms of Jesus on July 28, 2017, at ten weeks.