Being “Strong”

Rosie the RiviterSince I have been dealing with the loss of my unborn child over the past week, I have heard from several people that I am one of the strongest people they know. Interestingly enough, I have said to myself recently, “I’m tired of being strong all the time.”

I have been strong through many difficult circumstances over the course of my life. I think I learned to be strong from my mother, who raised me by herself after my dad died. I appreciate that she didn’t let circumstances get her down, but raised me with consistency and love. We didn’t always have as much as “everyone else,” but we always had enough, and she made my life fun and educational.

So what about being strong today? What does it mean to be strong? Does it mean to keep going on–business as usual? Does it mean not to cry, at least not in front of anyone? Does it mean not to question God? Does it mean not to get angry? Does it mean not to talk about my grief on social media?

No, it doesn’t mean any of those things. Jesus wept, and there was not a stronger man in history. Jesus changed his plans to accommodate special circumstances. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked God to spare his life. Jesus got angry with the Pharisees. OK, so Jesus didn’t have social media, but His life was documented in the Bible, which is the number one bestselling book in history.

After Job lost everything, he grieved in front of his friends and he questioned God. Though God reminded Job that He knows what He is doing, and that Job wasn’t there when He formed the world and Job didn’t know nearly as much as he thought he did, God understood Job’s suffering. In fact, He didn’t punish him for being “weak.” He rewarded Job for keeping the faith. The Lord restored everything to Job two-fold.

We can be strong and shed tears, ask questions, get angry, and share our burdens with others. We can let go of some of our responsibilities for a bit, in order to grieve, in order to honor something precious that has been lost. We can do this even if others tell us that we shouldn’t, or that they’re counting on us for whatever reason. Not only can we do this, but we should do this. It brings healing to our souls.

It takes a strong person to grieve properly–to not fall apart completely, but to pause and recognize the need to take care of ourselves, to say no to less important things, to say no to urgent things, in order to take care of what truly matters. To cry. To weep. To question. To rest. To journal. To hike. To do whatever we need to do in order to process the loss completely. Because if we don’t process it completely, we will become bitter, angry, depressed, or ineffective.

It takes a strong person to admit his weakness and his need for God to be his strength. As another strong man, the Apostle Paul, said, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV)

According to Solomon, the wisest man in history (besides Jesus),

“There is a time for everything,

 and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
 a time to mourn and a time to dance …” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NIV)

For my husband and me, this is a time to heal, to weep, and to mourn. I pray that, if it is a time like that for you, you will give yourself permission to grieve, that you may be strengthened by our Lord.

A Different Kind of Grief

infantloss-1Losing an unborn child is a different kind of grief than losing one that has been born. That may seem like an obvious statement, but honestly, it’s a thought I never even considered before last week. I had worked in the pro-life movement, trying to rescue the unborn from abortion. I knew that an unborn child is no less a child than one that had been born. Yet I have been insensitive to friends and family members who have suffered miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. I didn’t look at it as the same thing. For that, I apologize.

Don’t get me wrong–I always felt sad for those who lost unborn children. But I know I didn’t see it as the same thing, because I didn’t do the things I would have done if they had lost an already born child. I didn’t send them a note of sympathy. I didn’t offer to bring a meal. I didn’t sit with them for an extended amount of time and grieve with them. I didn’t visit them in the hospital. I didn’t check back to see how they were doing weeks later. I didn’t ask what I could do to help. I didn’t offer to watch their other children. I didn’t send flowers. I didn’t cry for them. Why not? Because I didn’t view it the same–pure and simple.

Now I do realize that, in some ways, it’s not the same. You don’t know that child. You haven’t held that child, heard her cry, watched her take her first steps, held her tiny hand, nursed her at your breast. In short, you haven’t had a relationship with that child, at least not the same kind of relationship that you would have had with a child who had been born.

I’ve loved each of my children as soon as I knew of their conception. But there is something different about holding that child in your arms for the first time. But I do know this: Even though I never held my little Jellybean (Emma or Isaac) in my arms, I miss her terribly. I am grieving for her. I am grieving the fact that I will never hold her, hear her cry, watch her take her first steps, hold her tiny hand, or nurse her at my breast. Never. At least not in this life. And some of those things will never happen at all. I will meet her in heaven, and I rejoice in that, but some of the things I will never do with her are earthly things.

I have learned much from the experience of losing a child, and I am sure there is more to be learned. I have learned a new compassion for those who have lost their children. I hope that compassion will extend to other types of loss–types that I haven’t experienced. I also have learned that, even though I have always believed that an unborn child is as much a person as a born child, I didn’t believe it as thoroughly as I had thought. I’m sure there are other blind spots in my thinking, and I pray that I can recognize those without having to go through tragedy.

I pray that all believers can see things the way our Lord does, rather than the way the world does. If we could, the world would be a much different place, because we would be much more compassionate, and that would make a profound difference.

Letter to my Jellybean: To My Little One in Heaven

May 21, 2015

My Dear Sweet Jellybean,

Just a few hours ago, your tiny heart was beating within my body. Now you are in the presence of Jesus. This is wonderful for you, my precious child, because you will never feel any of the pain and sorrow of this world, and you get to take your first steps in the midst of perfect beauty. Your first word won’t be to your earthly father, but to your Heavenly Abba.

I have asked Abba to please let my Nana be the first to rock you. Nana died a few days after your big sister, Cate, was born, and she never got to hold her, or any of my other children. But now that has changed!

You may wonder what kind of a name “Jellybean” is. Your Daddy picked it out. He has a good sense of humor (Well, your siblings don’t really think so, but I do–most of the time–that’s one of the many things that attracted me to him.) Anyway, I guess you were about the size of a jellybean when they removed you from my body. I take it that you’re bigger than that in your heavenly form.

The nice thing about a name like “Jellybean” is that it suits you whether you’re a boy or a girl. I feel that you are a girl, so I refer to you as “she” to others. If you’re a boy, I hope you will forgive my mistake. (Since you’re in heaven, I’m pretty sure you will.)

Though I’m happy for you that you get to grow up in the presence of the King of the Universe, I have to let you know how devastated your Daddy and I are. We have loved and protected you since May 1, when I took the first positive pregnancy test. We were so excited about having you. SO EXCITED! We announced it to the world, and so many people were excited right along with us.

I could almost feel you in my arms as I imagined rocking and nursing you. I envisioned going to a different part of the hospital than the ER and the OR. I thought with eager anticipation about going into the “Labor and Delivery” entrance, being in the Delivery Room with your Daddy, holding you in my arms for the first time, and seeing your Daddy’s smile when you were born. I am so sorry that your earthly life had to end in the OR, rather than you entering the world in the Delivery Room, my precious child.

I really don’t understand why you had to be taken from us. I know that, in a way, I am being selfish. Is it selfish, though, to love someone and to want a relationship with that person? I really don’t know the answer. Someone said that you were taken early because you were too beautiful for this world. Perhaps. But, in truth, this world could use more beauty.

My precious child, how I want to wake up and realize that this has all been a bad dream–the worst nightmare of my life. However, I know that’s not going to happen. As King David said of his and Bathsheba’s first born, “He will not return to me, but I will go to him someday.” Yes, my child, I will be there eventually. Please be watching for me. Show me around the place of perfect beauty. Be ready to share the stories of your perfect childhood with me. I’m looking forward to the day when I am born into heaven, and you are waiting for me in the delivery room.

Love Forever,

Mommy

New Ashes

candles_withtext“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I got married to a wonderful, patient, loving man back in December. Since then, we have had a variety of challenges, especially with regard to blending our family. There also have been some financial, logistical, and work-related challenges. We’ve had a lot going on, you could say. So on May 1, when I found out I was pregnant, it was kind of a shock to me. Not to my husband–he was just plain happy.

Despite my initial disbelief, it didn’t take long for me to also become excited about having this precious baby. We had decided, before getting married, to allow God to be in charge of whether or not we have more children. We both love kids of all ages. I think it is so sweet to see my wonderful husband interact with little ones. He is so good with them.

Through a couple decades each of raising children, we’ve both learned a lot about parenting, and a good deal of that was from making mistakes. We figure that we could probably do a pretty decent job, given a chance to parent a new little one.

On Monday, I started bleeding and having some lower back pains. I called the doctor, who scheduled me for an ultrasound that same day. I could tell that the tech was concerned. She was having a hard time locating the baby. Then I saw it on the screen. With guarded enthusiasm I said, “That looks like a baby. Where is it?” I didn’t like her answer: “In your right tube.”

An additional ultrasound and a blood test confirmed our nightmare. We had an ectopic pregnancy. The baby would have to be removed in order to ensure that I would survive. I was sent home and told that a procedure would be scheduled. I told them I wanted another ultrasound and blood test first. I wanted to be absolutely sure. I’m extremely pro-life, and the recommended procedure was to use methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug, that would end the unborn baby’s life. I had no idea how I could bring myself to do such a thing. As a mother, I have always known that I would instantly lay down my life for any of my children, and now I was supposed to kill my unborn child in order to save my life.

My husband and I, along with hundreds of prayer warriors, prayed for a miracle. Surely the Creator of the universe could move this baby to the right spot in my uterus. We also prayed that, if He chose not to move the baby to a safer place, that He would resolve this problem without me having to have an abortion.

Wednesday morning at midnight, I woke up with terrible pressure in my pelvic area. I felt like my insides were going to come out. My husband drove me to the hospital and I was admitted into the ER. Another ultrasound was done, and more blood was analyzed. The ER doctor told me that we had to go ahead and operate. They had found a heartbeat, so the methotrexate couldn’t be used.

They had found a HEARTBEAT! So then I knew I had a normally developing baby, developing in the wrong place. I was pregnant and our child was fine, and later they would operate and our child would die, so that I might live. But it was highly unlikely (impossible, according to the doctors) that this child would survive and grow properly where it was. So the operation was to save one life, rather than to lose both of our lives.

The operation was a “success,” if you could call it that. I lost some of the affected tube. Most of all, I lost a precious new life that had grown within me–a child that was created from the love my husband and I share. Honestly, it’s hard to understand, and it sure doesn’t seem fair. Yes, we collectively have seven children, whom we love with all of our hearts. But love multiplies with each new child. There’s an abundant supply, and we already had begun to love this little one.

There was some comfort in knowing that this one went straight to the presence of our Lord, and will not endure any of the trials of this world. One day, we will go to be with her. But our hearts will ache in the meantime.

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