Sunday, November 29, 2015

Am I Strong Enough to Do This?

Shortly after we lost Olive I found myself clinging to my Bible for dear life. I longed to understand what God was doing, why on earth He would take her - I was looking for answers.  I not only wanted to understand why she was gone, but I wanted to understand where she was.  I compared myself to a mother whose child had gone missing - I knew she was out there....but where?  Where was heaven?  How could she be here one minute and gone the next?

I remember the night I read it - the chapter in the Bible that knocked me back to my rightful place.  That was a humbling night, a night I don't think I will ever forget.  I had been reading the book of Job, after all, I felt as though I had a connection to him.  He had lost everything (literally) and I felt like I had lost everything.  I got to Chapter 38 and I stopped in my tracks.  If you have a Bible, or a phone, I encourage you to look it up.  It's not a long chapter, but too long to post  here.

The basis of the chapter is that the Lord tells Job to brace himself and be prepared to answer to God.  God asks him where he was when He laid the earth's foundation? Where was Job when the waters of the seas were contained or when he created the clouds?  He asks Job if he's ever "given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn it's place"?  Basically he is asking Job to humble himself and stop questioning the God of the universe.  It's a beautiful chapter - one I turn to every so often when I'm consumed in self-pity and doubt. 

Here I am, exactly 16 months later, ready to welcome Olive's baby brother any day now - and how foolish I've been lately.  I've not only been questioning God, asking God to give me signs but also doubting Him and His care and concern for me.

Truth be told I am scared.  I felt as though I was losing all confidence.  As the weeks flew by (this pregnancy has gone so quickly for us!) I felt the anxiety and doubt creeping in. I prayed that God would send me some encouragement, and He most certainly did.

Recently I had lunch with an old friend, a friend I haven't physically seen in quite some time, but one that is very dear to me and has often times shared words of comfort and hope just when I  needed them.  She gave me some bible verses to have with me when I am laboring.  I've been reading them each day as I know delivery is just around the corner. It dawned on me as I was reading that the reason for my fear was  not because God had left me, but because I was focusing too much on how I  was going to get through this. Not how God was going to help me through this, but how I was going to handle this labor, how I was going to push this baby out, how I was going to do this all on my own.

Silly me.

I lift my eyes to the hills.  Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

This verse, when I read it, quickly took me back to Job 38. My HELP comes from the Lord - the one who made the heavens and the earth!  How foolish I've been thinking that I could do this all alone.  Sure, I suppose one could argue that I'm the one physically needing to endure the labor and physically need to deliver this baby - but the mental, emotional and spiritual strength needed is much greater than the physical strength - and that, that comes from the Lord. 

As I prepare to welcome this baby I am NOT fearful of losing him - let me be clear - while I certainly can't predict the future, I've said all along that I firmly believe this baby is coming home with us.  It has nothing to do with where we deliver or how long it will take to deliver him - it was solely a fear of "am I strong enough to do this?" 

There was a time after we received Olive's autopsy that I believed my body had failed us, that it was my fault. I made up every reason why I was to blame: my body didn't know what to do, the birth canal wasn't wide enough so it cause her cord to compress, maybe I had lifted or twisted wrong leading up to her delivery and it put her in distress.  Any and all ways I could blame myself, I did. 

Looking back, I recognize that I had done nothing wrong.  Our providers did nothing wrong.  The EMTs did nothing wrong.  The hospital staff did nothing wrong.  Olive's death had nothing to do with where we delivered her or how long I pushed for.  It had everything to do with God's will for our lives and the beautiful and amazing way her life would bring Him glory. And as the last 16 months have proven, albeit extremely difficult at times, I am at peace with her life and her death.  It still hurts at times, but I have seen the beauty from the ashes - and part of that beauty is the new life we are about to welcome.

I don't know if we would have had another baby this soon had Olive lived.  I know it will be painful to not have a big sister there to welcome this baby with us, but she's in our hearts and in our minds and will be very present through us in that room on that day.  But more importantly, the Lord of all creation will be very present in that room as well.  His plan has unfolded in a beautiful way - not at all the way I would have chosen (more reason to be thankful I am not the one in control!) - rather "His perfect will in His perfect way."

I can't say I'm entirely ready - but I'm as close as I'll ever be.  I cannot wait to share our news with all of you - and continue to welcome your prayers, love and strength.  Feel free to leave any verses, quotes or words of encouragement or inspiration that have gotten you through a challenging time. I would love to have pieces of all of you with us that day as we welcome our son.

Whenever anything happens, I am there.  Isaiah 48:16

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Glass Belly

When I started writing a little over a year ago I was in a much different place.  This blog started as a result of the pain and suffering I was feeling after losing my daughter.  It was helpful to me to be as open and vulnerable as I could, as a way to help myself - and a bonus has been that others have been educated on what an infant loss journey can look like. 

I knew that eventually life would take us down a different path, and I envisioned that the blog would follow along with us.  To an extent that has been true, but I've learned some things about myself through this pregnancy that I wasn't quite expecting.  While I'm normally an open book (about pretty much everything in my life) when it came time to write about this pregnancy and this baby - I've been a little more closed off.  My therapist refers to it as my "glass belly".  You see, the innocence and naivete of pregnancy and birth is gone.  Since losing my first child, I will never, EVER, experience the innocent bliss that most mothers face when bringing a baby into the world.  I will never be one who knows the statistics of what *could* happen.  I am the statistic.

That has made this pregnancy a bit different.  In the beginning I was hesitant to tell people that I was pregnant, but at the same time knew that we may only get a short time with this baby and to share him with as many people as I could.  But as my belly started to grow, so did my anxiety.  With a growing belly comes many questions: "When are you due?", "Do you know what you are having?", "Is this your first?" Each question would hit me like a ton of bricks.

No, this isn't my first - it's my third, but sometimes I say it's my second.  Truth is I don't always know how to answer.  I usually leave it at that, but often times it's followed up with, "How old are your others?" Punch to the gut.  I often feel worse for making the other person feel so horrible for even asking.  It's a simple question, really.  But the answer is anything but simple.

"It's a little boy." Such a matter-of-fact statement, usually followed with a response of "How wonderful, you'll love having a little boy!"  True, I'm sure.  But I didn't always feel that way.  Truth is I had a feeling all along this was a boy, and while we are beyond excited for his arrival, I was not initially this excited.  I wanted a daughter.  I felt robbed of getting to raise the little girl I had dreamed of, and I knew that she may be the only daughter I ever get.  There was a point when that was not good enough of an answer for me.  People were congratulating us on having a little boy and I remember calling my mother, sobbing, because I didn't feel as happy as they did. 

That may sound harsh, but gender disappointment is real - especially in the loss community.  Please understand that if Olive had been a boy and I found out I was now carrying a girl, I would have felt the same way.  It's longing for the baby you didn't get a chance to raise.  It's shifting your whole mindset to a new way of thinking when you never really got to wrap your head around the other way of thinking.  Some loss parents are upset if they are having the same gender, they want the other gender to help them process that this is a different baby, hopefully with a different outcome.

I've become very protective of my glass belly.  When others ask how I'm feeling or how things are going, I usually respond with a short, "I'm fine" because I'm not interested in talking about the details.  Not because they aren't important, but because they are hard to talk about.  This pregnancy has been fairly easy, very similar to my pregnancy with Olive.  That scares me.  I know that just because things are going well doesn't mean they'll end well. That reality is becoming more apparent to me as the weeks fly by.

I've recently begun my third trimester, and I woke up in a panic attack.  Most mothers are anxious because they only have a short amount of time to get the nursery finished, wash baby clothes and finish nesting.  I am anxious because I may only have 12 +/- weeks with my son left.  I know that sounds morbid, and I suppose it is.  But it's also the world I live in now.  Each week is a milestone for us.  Each week another blessing.

"Lord, I trust you with my life and death and with the lives and deaths of my babies"

This is a prayer that I started praying after we lost Olive.  I had to remind myself daily to trust in the Lord.  Since then, life, death and baby have all become plural.  We have lost two children.  This is my third pregnancy and we still have brought no babies home.  I have to trust in the Lord.  It's my only option.  But it's also a struggle each and every day.

People have commented on my strength, but the truth is I'm no stronger than the next person out there.  I struggle each day to read my bible and make time for God.  I struggle each day to pray meaningful prayers where I'm not constantly asking for things, but rather where the only request I have is that I am open and accepting to God's will for my life.  The human nature in me struggles because I want to bring this baby home, I want to make all the right decisions regarding his care, I want to be the best mother I can be.  But fear, self-doubt, unsolicited advice and opinions of others creep in and I find myself clinging to God for dear life, begging him to increase my faith, calm my nerves and trust that, together, we will get through this - just as we have everything else in life.

I do intend to document the end of my pregnancy here on the blog, and I ask for your prayers as I find the strength to open up and allow myself the same vulnerability I have had with Olive's story. We know that the next few months are going to be very exciting for our family and I pray that God would use me however He sees fit to help continue to educate others and accomplish His goal.

Thank you, as always, for joining us on this journey.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Birthday Lessons

"Count your life by smiles, not tears. Count your age by friends, not years" - Anonymous

Today is my 35th birthday.  For the first time in quite awhile it doesn't feel like my birthday.  I mean, I know that as you get older birthdays really do just feel like another day, but this year is different.  I don't quite know how to explain it but it doesn't feel like my birthday - I was neither anticipating nor dreading it.  It's just Friday, August 21st.  That's it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

In a way I'm a bit relieved by this.  Last year my birthday was incredibly emotional.  Olive had just passed away 3 weeks earlier and I was in such a daze.  I look back to where I was, as a person, one year ago today and it's amazing to me how much has changed.  One year ago today I could barely breathe.  I spent my days laying around, not wanting to get out of bed.  When I would get out of bed I would make a pot of coffee and sit on the back porch in my pajamas for hours.  I didn't want to move from that place.  I didn't want to see people.  I still wasn't answering my phone.  I was just trying to survive.

One year ago today I was extremely overwhelmed.  I had nothing to do with myself physically but emotionally and spiritually I was a wreck.  I was hanging on to God by a thread.  I was questioning everything from whether or not God had changed His mind about me being fit to be a mother, to where heaven was.  I would compare myself to a mother whose child had gone missing. I believed in my heart that Olive was in heaven, but because heaven is still such a mystery to us all I couldn't fathom what that meant.  I didn't know where heaven was, so I didn't know where she was - and that was incredibly painful.  I could not even bring myself to look up into the sky for fear of hyperventilating.  The vast horizon, with it's sunshine and clouds was too much for me.  It was such a powerful feeling, and one I was so fearful of.

I'm happy to say that today I can enjoy a good sunset.  I have begun to find joy again and I'm looking forward to what this new year has to offer.

I've learned that you can truly find a miracle in every day - because every day is truly a miracle.

I have a deeper relationship for my husband and a respect for him I never knew possible.

So many beautiful people have come into my life, and some really special friendships have been formed.

I try to make time every day to spend with the Lord.

I have a deeper love for my parents, siblings and other family members - knowing that our time on earth together is shorter than any of us could have possibly imagined.

I long for heaven. I've never been afraid to die - but now more than ever I feel at peace with this temporary life, knowing full well that the salvation I've been gifted in Christ will bring me to my forever home soon enough.

I am eager and anxious to meet the sweet boy who is moving, grooving and growing stronger every day inside of me.  I long to cradle him in my arms and breathe in his sweet smell.

While I'm no where near where I thought I would be at 35, I'm content with the path God has laid out for me.  Each new day I'm more and more aware that this life, even with all of it's challenges, is working out exactly as it was meant to. It's not always easy to see the beauty in the pain - that's certainly something I couldn't do a year ago today, but God-willing - I have the next 35+ years to continue working on it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's a.....

We are still coming off of the emotional rollercoaster from last week.  While the week itself was full of really high highs and really low lows, I will say that I am happy July is over.  I'm not usually one to wish the days away, but knowing that we survived this first major milestone is bittersweet - but I'm choosing to focus more on the sweet.

I realize that since announcing I was pregnant again I haven't spent much time discussing this current baby much (enter feelings of mom guilt).  While last week was definitely a week to focus on Olive, we also had quite a few special moments this month with this baby too - one very specific one that many people keep asking me about.

To start, we had our first prenatal class (we have had other prenatal appointments, but this was the first group class we did with other couples delivering late this year).   It was nice to meet everyone and begin a new journey with these parents.  If I'm being honest though, it wasn't that long ago that we were just doing this - so I think that added to some of the mixed emotions we were feeling the entire month.

We also met with our OB for a consult, met our perinatologist for the ultrasound (and to discuss my advanced maternal age - which will NOT be talked about anymore on this blog - ha!) and daddy got to feel baby move for the first time!  We went into our ultrasound a little hesitant, but left feeling very comfortable that everything was great.  Baby is measuring ahead of schedule, just like big sister did and looks healthy and happy.  I mean, c'mon...look at this peanut!

So far this pregnancy has been very similar to my pregnancy with Olive (I wasn't far enough along with Baby #2 to really have any pregnancy symptoms).  I had some nausea during the first trimester, although it didn't last near as long.  As far as how I'm carrying, that is pretty similar too.  The only major differences are that I've battled more insomnia with this little one, and I'm not having near the cravings I did with Olive - I mean almost zero!  Most of the time I am trying to figure out what sounds good, instead of making a break for a Taco Bell drive-thru at the drop of a hat!
Early on we had decided that this baby's gender would also be a surprise, but as the weeks went by I found myself getting increasingly anxious about many things.  For one, I was having a hard time connecting - especially during the timeframe where I wasn't really feeling sick anymore but still hadn't felt much movement. Another big issue for me was that all of the baby items we had, in my mind, belonged to Olive.  They were purchased with her in mind, but she never got to use them.  Had Olive been alive we would have naturally used the same things for this baby, but since she hadn't been brought home it felt like we were going to move this baby into "her" room with "her" belongings.  I knew that I needed to make some changes if I was going to be comfortable with using these items (everything had been washed, tags and boxes thrown away, and we certainly weren't going to return thousands of dollars of merchandise!).
Additionally, I found myself becoming more anxious for the birth - I really just want to go into that day with one goal in mind: deliver a breathing, crying baby.  I didn't want any extra surprises in the delivery room.  So, after much discussion with my husband we decided this time around we would find out the gender.
To most people this would be the end of the discussion, but for me it brought about more feelings of guilt.  I knew that we had decided that we didn't want to find out with any of our babies.  The fact that we were making a different decision for this child meant that we were already treating this baby different just because of his/her sister, which is something I find myself struggling with on a daily basis.  I felt like I was weak - giving in - and letting my husband down.  He reassured me that we cannot compare these situations - each is a completely different set of circumstances, and whether we found out in the delivery room or sooner - we were going to find out together.  (Have I mentioned how much I love that guy?)
With Olive's birthday coming up we decided to include this baby in her celebration - to make it a true family affair.  We had the doctor write down what the baby was and then gave it to our dear friend who was making Olive's birthday cake.  Inside she would surprise us with either pink or blue so that when we cut into the cake on Olive's birthday - we would know if we were celebrating with her little brother or little sister.  We both had our suspicions - and around 9:30pm on Olive's birthday we dug in.
Even though I was expecting a boy - it still has taken some getting used to (which I may get into more on another post).  After letting the news sink in a for a couple of days I can tell you that we are thrilled to be welcoming Olive's little brother to our family later this year.  God certainly has blessed us and we know that this little boy will fit in perfectly!
*And we welcome any name suggestions as boy names have always been difficult for us!*

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Olive's Branches Day

Yesterday was a day I both dread and looked forward to.  On one hand it was heart-wrenching to have to celebrate Olive's first birthday without the birthday girl, but on the other hand I was so looking forward to the many ways we would, collectively, shower the world with love and kindness in her memory.

To say I was blown away is an understatement.

We woke up as we normally to - to silence.  No baby babble coming over the monitor, no curly haired blonde to get out of her crib and snuggle, no little one to make special birthday pancakes for.  But, we weren't sad.

Instead we awoke to our phones flooded with kind and generous gestures that, from the moment we woke up to the minute we laid our heads down last night (early this morning for me), brought a peace that I can't even describe to you.

I'm sobbing as I type this because I wish you all knew what you did for this mama's heart. The ripple effect you had on the communities you live in was astounding. As much as my sinful human nature would have loved to snuggle my sweet one, I recognize that without her short life - without her death - I don't know that all of these things would have happened.  That's a conflicting place to be as a parent, but one thing is for certain: our daughter only and will ever only know unconditional love.  As much as I want her back, I can't offer her anywhere close to what she has now - and because of that, I've accepted (and dare I say, am happier) that she is where she is and I will see her again when it's the appropriate time.

Because of all of YOU people felt joy, they believed in the kindness of the human spirit, they were uplifted and loved.  YOU did that - for me, for the lady at Starbucks, for the mail carriers, servers, children, parents and homeless in your communities!  YOU created a ripple effect that will be felt for days, weeks and hopefully months to come.

As for my husband and I - we weren't able to do many of the things that parents do with their children on their birthdays, but because of you there was singing and balloons and snuggling.  There was joy and fun and laughter.  There was fellowship and celebration.  And peace.

Because of you Olive's birthday was a happy one, one that we will never, EVER forget.  To have thousands of people bear witness to your daughter's life, to shower her and her family with love through your acts of kindness to others is nothing short of remarkable.

I pray that the joy YOU felt in giving back continues to leave a lasting impression on your heart.  I pray that in the upcoming months you set aside moments in your busy life to pay closer attention, say some extra "I love yous", find a stranger or friend that needs a little extra in their life - and continue to pay it forward. 

I promise you there is good in the world. I saw it, you saw it and we felt it.
God's richest blessings to you all.
With love and gratitude,

We will be creating a video montage of the different ways people helped to celebrate.  Please continue to check the blog for updates.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Happy 1st Birthday!

My dear sweet girl,
It's hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since we first laid eyes on you.  If I close my eyes I can still feel your warm, slippery body lying right over my heart.  You were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  We were so in love with you, from the moment we knew you were growing inside of me.

A lot has changed in the last year - life has been lived, new memories made but the love we feel for you has not changed.  The love I feel for you is as strong as it was the day I met you and I will forever be grateful that you made me a mommy.

We know there is no birthday gift that we can give you.  You have already received the ultimate birthday gift - all of this earthly stuff is just for us, we know that.  But we are trying really hard.  We want the world to know how much you are loved - and how much love there is to share.  There are no words to describe the joy and pride we feel for you today.

In honor of your first birthday we wanted to put together some of our favorite memories.  We know there will be many more - just because you aren't here doesn't mean that you will not be a part of the memories this family will make with your future brother(s) and/or sister(s). 

We love you so very much and we miss you like crazy!

Happy 1st Birthday, Olive!
Mommy and Daddy

To read Olive's birth story, please visit this link and this one


Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 26

Today will always be the day that stands out to me as the one that started it all.  It was a Saturday and I had an acupuncture appointment.  I wanted to see if there was any way to start labor without getting too crazy.  We discussed my options and decided it would be best to wait a little longer to really get things moving, after all, my due date was still 4 days away.  I scheduled an appointment for the 29th to come back and see where we were.

I had been convinced that I was going to have Olive on the 26th.  That date just stood out to me as "the day". We obviously know now that it wasn't meant to be her birthday, but my brain often tries to play tricks on me, telling me that if she had been born this day she'd be alive.  I know that's not true, but sometimes it's difficult to turn off those thoughts.

My husband was getting some yard work done and I was scrolling through Facebook, maybe golf or a race was on the TV- nothing super exciting, I remember that much at least.  I recall reading a post that a friend from grade school, who was currently serving in Afghanistan, had lost her husband early that morning in a fatal car crash, leaving behind her and her two children. In my hormonal condition I recall breaking down in my living room.  I thought, "how could God let this happen to her?"  It seemed so unfair, so unimaginable.  I remember the next few days would be spent following her on Facebook as she tried to make her way home from the war torn country she was stationed in to her new war torn life that awaited her in the states.  I could not stop hurting for her and those precious babes.  

Little did I know that my own worst nightmare was just a few days away.

July has been hard for me.  As soon as the calendar hit July 1 I could feel myself panicking a little bit.  This was the month that I met and lost my daughter.  Getting through this month meant that we had survived a whole year of this, and part of me was feeling as though I would be forced to move on. So much life has been lived in this year- so many life lessons learned, faith lessons learned, marriage lessons learned.  With a new baby on the way I feared that many would view Olive's first birthday as a day for me to leave the grieving behind and begin to prepare for the next phase.  

I recognize now that isn't true.  There is no real moving on, sure life goes on, but there will always be a part of my heart missing, memories that creep in when I least expect them to, tears that fall when I'm not prepared.  There is no way to erase this, no matter how many more life experiences are to come or how many more babies we have.

She is a part of me, a part of this family and while her birthday is certainly a reminder of what we no longer have, it's also a beautiful reminder of everything she gave us.  Love, patience, a new compassion for others, and  wonderful new friends in this gigantic community of parents who have experienced some of life's most horrific, complex but beautiful journies.  

There is no telling what Wednesday will bring us.  The next few days will be days that I know will stop me in my tracks as I recall something I did, felt or said as I prepared to meet this little creation.  I ask for your prayers and also your support.  Many of you have traveled this year long journey with us, and we know that your hearts are hurting and healing along with ours.  Your love and friendship have, no doubt, helped to get us through some of the worst of times.  Your faith-filled messages of hope and peace have reminded us to cling to the only One who will someday lead us back to her, to Him.  

If you would like to join us in celebrating Olive's life, on Wednesday we would love for you to do something kind in remembrance of her.  Shortly after we lost her people asked us what they could do for us and we told you to hug your babies, love on them and spend time with them.  That's what we wish for you to do on Wednesday as well.  If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or other loved ones nearby, please post a picture to social media of you doing something fun together, using the hashtag #olivesbranches 

If you don't have children or loved ones in your life, consider buying someone's Starbucks, leaving a note of love or hope on someone's car, cutting your neighbors grass, bringing flowers to a shut in, whatever it is- do it out of love and do it for the moments that you may not get tomorrow. Again, if you are so inclined, tell us how you showed love to someone with the hashtag #olivesbranches

We would also be so humbled if you would consider joining or donating to our Olive's Branches team to support Children's Hospital of WI this September at their annual Run/walk.  The link to our team is below.

Thank you again, there are no words to share with you how each one of you has touched our lives this past year.  We love you all so very much.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Beauty of a Story

I never imagined that my daughter's brief life would be considered a story.  Stories are tales told before bedtime, drawn out plots on your favorite soap opera or exaggerations your grandfather uses to help you realize your life isn't really as hard as you think it is, right? The more I live this life the more I realize how much of a story it really is.  Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it full of exaggerations - but all interwoven to create this beautiful masterpiece, a masterpiece that can only be called your own.  No one story is alike.  How amazing is that?

When I started writing about Olive's story after she died it never occurred to me that it wasn't over.  I didn't view it as a story, not until late last fall that is.  A friend of mine has been actively involved in the Listen to Your Mother shows for a few years now.  I've always been intrigued by the stories I've watched online, never attending a live show myself.  Stories of motherhood: love, loss, humor and beauty. Late last fall I realized that Milwaukee had a show of it's own and thanks to many of you continuing to follow along our journey - you helped me to realize that I had a story to tell.  A very important one.

I was the keeper of Olive's story - a story that deserved to be told just like any other story.  A story that would bring healing to more than just myself.  I decided to sign up for an audition spot.

It is one thing to tell pieces of this story from behind my computer screen, it's a whole new beast to tell it in front of hundreds of people.  Before I jumped the gun I needed to get through the 3 producers.  And before that - well, I had to actually write a piece of the story.

Where would I begin?  There were so many things I wanted to say, so many emotions I wanted my viewer to understand - three days before the audition I had nothing.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

I cried to my husband that I was going to let Olive down.  This is all I wanted to do - even if I didn't make the show, I wanted to verbally tell someone her story.  He encouraged me to get in front of the computer and just start writing.  I did and I came up with a rough draft.  When I read through it I thought it was great - and then I realized it was over 10 minutes long.  I only had 5 minutes to tell her story.  Crap.

After days of editing and tweaking, I had my final draft.  Olive's story - in 5 minutes.  Geesh - I could talk about this sweet baby for days, how on earth was I going to get people to understand the depth of my love for her, and hopefully have them fall in love with her too, in just 5 short minutes?  I practiced in front of the bathroom mirror.  I recorded myself and played it back, over and over again while I was driving around town running errands.  Sunday afternoon came and I headed off to the audition. 

I was nervous.  My voice was shaking and I hadn't been able to get through the piece without crying.  "That's OK," I thought, "you can't tell this story without tears," I convinced myself.  I didn't cry. I read my piece with dry mouth and a cracking voice.  When I finally looked up no one said a word.  They were all crying.  They asked me what her name was, apologized for my loss and thanked me for sharing such an important and private piece of my life with them.  I left.  I felt good, not 100% confident that I would make it, but I was proud of myself.  I got out of my comfort zone and told her story, even if it was to just 3 people.

Later that week I learned I would be a part of the cast.  I had no idea how this would change my life.

The people I've met, the stories I've heard, the beautiful community that is created when we celebrate all of these unique versions of motherhood is something that cannot be described - it just needs to be felt.  Something amazing happens when we sit back and listen to each other.  We ALL have stories to tell, each one unique, but each one identifiable. 

I would encourage you: man, woman, husband, wife, brother, son, grandmother or mother - any of you reading this now to consider finding a Listen to Your Mother show in your area, remove yourself from your comfort zone and tell your beautiful story! 

I promise you - the world wants to needs to hear it!

To all who came, offered words of encouragement or sent well-wishes from afar - thank you!  To my husband - I know that this is as much your story as mine, and you continue to encourage me to bare my soul to the world.  I hope this crazy little blog and the support from friends, family and strangers that comes with it has brought you peace as well. Thank you for being the amazing husband and father you are!

For those of you who have asked, the videos from every Listen to Your Mother show nationwide have been released!! I've included mine here if you'd like to watch.  I would encourage you to search the LTYM Show channel on You Tube to find other videos that inspire you - there are thousands!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Feeling is Healing- Part 3

In just a few short days we would have been celebrating 11 months with Olive.  I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that a full year has almost come and gone. In the past I've written a couple of posts trying to explain my thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.  So often, my posts reflect a specific feeling or emotion that comes up and pulls at my heart strings to dig into a little deeper, but lately it's just the everyday occurrences. 

You see, even though 11 months has come and gone, I am reminded daily of our loss, especially now that I'm pregnant with a baby that we most likely would not have been trying to conceive if Olive were still here.  If you thought this was an emotional rollercoaster before, throw that guilt in there!

After therapy on Monday I had some realizations, and since my main purpose for writing is to help myself process these feelings I thought there no better place than here to drop them off.  I apologize in advance my thoughts are all over the place - that tends to be how I survive these days. I'm just going to leave some thoughts I've been having so you better understand that while the tears don't come everyday like they used to - the reminders still do.

I'm sad

I'm sad that simple things like taking a bath brings me back to those long hours of laboring in the tub, and I'm immediately transported back to a day that was both beautiful and heartbreaking - leaving me feeling empty and lonely.

I'm sad that when this baby is born our first family picture will be missing a grinning 17 month old, proudly wearing her new "Big Sister" shirt.

I'm sad that I'm not in the midst of planning a first birthday party.

I'm sad at how empty and quiet our home is.

Bringing up the tub of maternity clothes, just worn a short summer ago, makes me sad and happy that I need them this soon. Unfolding every piece brings with it a memory - whether it was the dress I wore to my baby shower or the nursing bras that never got their full use, it's amazing how clothing can evoke such emotion.

I'm mad

Yes, I know I say that I don't want to be angry, but there are some things that still make me mad.  I'm mad that I can't enjoy this pregnancy the way I enjoyed the first.

I'm mad that I've had to search out more doctors and specialists and make new decisions regarding my care that I didn't want to have to make.

I'm mad that I feel awkward around people now that I'm pregnant again. It's as if I can't genuinely be happy when someone comes up and congratulates us or wants to touch my belly because I'm too busy feel awkward that they are being overly excited for us because of our loss. 

I'm mad that I can't yet connect with this baby the way I want to, the way it deserves.

I'm mad that the innocence that comes along with being pregnant is gone.  I know too well how quickly this journey can turn at any moment.

I'm mad that I'm having to research things like breastfeeding, baby wearing, etc. when I should already know how to do these things - after all, I am having my third baby.

I'm confused

I'm confused as to how my relationship with God falters day by day.  I still feel very close to him, but I'm back to questioning things that I know are a slippery slope to question, but I pray it helps to continue to draw me closer to Him (and I ask that you pray that for me too!)

I'm confused at the hormonal and emotional feelings of guilt, fear and frustration that I'm feeling this time around, feelings I never had with Olive.

I'm still confused as to what to do with all of the baby stuff we have.  If Olive were alive we would naturally use it for this baby, but it still feels like her stuff - her stuff that was never used by her - and that brings about new levels of confusion and guilt I wasn't prepared for.

I'm fearful/frustrated

I'm frustrated at how I will learn to parent a child who will have to share me with a sibling they will never fully know.

I'm fearful I will not be able to connect with this child for a short time after it's born (which is very normal and natural for mothers who have so recently lost)

I'm frustrated for the times my emotions catch me off guard and leave me a sobbing mess when I least expect it- simple things like driving to a client that requires me to pass by Children's Hospital, a song that takes me back to a specific moment in time, walking down an aisle of a store and catching a whiff of the packaged diapers that I haven't been buying for the last 11 months.

I'm hopeful

I'm hopeful that the support groups and resources I have will help me along this journey.

I'm hopeful that I'll have a healthy baby just in time for Christmas.

I'm hopeful when I hear about how one of you was able to have a discussion with a friend or stranger about loss because our story has helped you to see that, even though you can't relate, you can offer so much to someone who is hurting.

I'm hopeful that I feel as though I'm beginning to see more purpose for my life through all of this (even if the details are still not entirely evident).

I'm hopeful that I'll be able to feel stronger kicks and movement from the baby in no time (already feeling little flutters!)

I'm thankful

I'm thankful that I'm healthy and that this baby is healthy at this moment in time.

I'm thankful for a husband who "gets it" and helps me through some of the guilt and frustration I feel.

I'm thankful that I get to see posts and pictures of children so close in age to Olive as it helps me to humanize her and keep her memory alive by allowing me to identify with milestones she would be experiencing.

I'm thankful for the love and support of so many of you that continue to shower us with your prayers and well-wishes.

I'm thankful that it's butterfly season and for the reminders from God they bring that Olive is safe and happy.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I Don't Deserve a Baby

The response after my last post was overwhelming.  It warms my heart so much to know just how many of you are following along this journey with us.  When I started this blog I never intended to do anything but help myself journal through what was certain to be one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  The fact that so many of you continue to pray for us and shower us with love - the way you are now keeping this new life in your thoughts - is, well, humbling.

So many of you reached out to offer well wishes and congratulations.  Many others of you were so overjoyed because you felt as though we deserved this baby.  Those comments really got me thinking.  They've actually had me thinking for quite some time.  After Olive died we were told that we didn't deserve to lose her.  When we lost our second baby we were told that, too, was a loss that was undeserved.  Over and over these comments hang in my mind, and what I've determined is that if there is anything I don't deserve - it's a baby.

As I've thought about this for the last eleven months or so I've had lots of thoughts swirling around in my head - but could never figure out how exactly I wanted to write this post.  I didn't want to seem ungrateful, I don't want to say something to offend someone else, but it weighs so heavy on me that to not say anything at all wouldn't feel right.  Then one night this past week I was reading in a book I've referenced before on this blog, The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie, and she began to speak to my heart.

"We live in a world that teaches us, "The early bird gets the worm," "No pain no gain," "There is no such thing as a free lunch," and "You get what you pay for." We're comfortable in this world where people get what they deserve, at least in theory.  But when pain invades our lives, we quickly say, "I don't deserve this!" and claim our right to justice.  Believing we have a right to fairness, we feel violated when we think we haven't gotten what we deserve.

But if we open our eyes to the rest of the world where most people do not live with even the basics of comfort and security that we enjoy, or if we look back on the living conditions and daily-life realities previous generations lived and died with, we realize that to assume we deserve a life free of loss and pain is not only unrealistic, it's arrogant."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - we were never promised a life without pain.  We are certain, absolutely certain that we are all going to die - every single one of us - yet when we lose someone or something, it shocks us.  Many have heard me say that I firmly believe all of our days are numbered.  Psalm 139:16 tells us, "your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Job 14:5 says, "A person's days are determined, you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." Whether you believe in God or not - you know you are going to die.  You know your children are going to die.  Yet, when it happens - if it happens at a time when YOU are not ready for - well, then you don't deserve it, right?

Nancy goes on to say that in a perfect world there is no room for grace. Or mercy. "Suffering may be undeserved, but so is our redemption. A fair world might be a nice place for us to live, but it would only be as nice as we are. And we know we're really not that nice."

"Suffering may be undeserved, BUT SO IS OUR REDEMPTION."

One could say that this new life is part of the brighter side of our story, and I wouldn't disagree with you - but that doesn't mean I deserve it. There are so many couples who have suffered much more than my husband and I have.  So many women who, month after month, receive a negative on that pregnancy test. Women who have suffered miscarriages, still births and infant loss - combined - in this one life! Why do I get a baby and they don't? Why do you have living, breathing, healthy children and your neighbor's one and only child is suffering from a life threatening illness?  Why is the person who never takes care of them self healthy and free of disease but the marathon runner who is vegetarian is battling cancer? Does one really deserve anything over the other?

Yes, I feel thankful. I am humbled and honored that God has chosen us to have an opportunity to parent another child on this earth.  Whether it be for a day, a month or many years - we will happily take on this responsibility no matter what the plan is.  But I do not feel as though I deserve it. If there is anything the last (almost) eleven months have taught me it's that I need to stop questioning life.  I don't know the answers to the above questions. I will never know the answers. The only questions I should be asking is: How will I respond? Am I responding out of love? Are my actions bringing God glory?

There is much to be learned from our pain. Maybe we didn't deserve to lose Olive, but her life wasn't about what we deserved or what she deserved - it was about bringing glory to God.  So is my life. So is yours. That's a tough pill to swallow when you feel like you're at your lowest point. When Olive died I had a choice and I've chosen to glorify God through this journey - and remarkable things have happened, none of which I deserve but all He has freely given.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


When I think back to my first post I find myself amazed at where this journey has taken us. I started this blog as a way to begin the repair on my broken and fragile heart, and along the way I feel as though I've gotten much more. The kindness of strangers, the community of loss parents that have found me through this blog, the parents I've found through other blogs and resources - and the power of faith and prayer all leave me mesmerized at how God can take one tiny (but mighty) girl and use her life to influence so many.

In my first post I focused on a promise fulfilled by God to Noah.  As the waters receded after the flood a dove appeared with an olive branch signifying that there was life after the storm. Today I want to focus on the other promise made shortly thereafter - the covenant made with Noah and for generations to come: the rainbow.

"I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life." Genesis 9:13-15

I think about the way God used that first rainbow so long ago and how the covenant has not changed. It reminds me that God keeps His promises and that there is life after the storm. 

Rainbows, in the loss world, have a similar meaning.  The term "rainbow baby" is used to describe the child that comes after a loss, whether miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.  A bright rainbow follows the storm (loss) and gives hope and new life. When I was pregnant earlier this year I felt like I was seeing rainbows all the time - it gave me hope that maybe I was indeed pregnant again, either that or God was reminding me that he was still with me in this storm.  I was pregnant, and yet the storm thickened with my miscarriage.  While heartbroken, my husband and I refused to give up hope.

It can be so easy to misunderstand what God is doing in our lives - I feel as though Olive's life and death are beginning to take on more purpose, and I am seeing things much more clearly than I have before.  And while I would do anything to hold that sweet baby in my arms once again, have her here to raise and watch grow, I know that was not part of the plan. I understand that might not make sense to all of you - there are days it still confuses the heck out of me, but I trust that it was for the best (as hard as that can be to say) and trust that God's will is being fulfilled exactly as it was intended.  I am finding so much beauty in her life AND her death - it's hard to put into words.

There are certainly mixed emotions that come with every part of this journey.  But way back when we decided to remain hopeful, and I specifically chose to try and see the beauty in our circumstances. I am humbled, yet again, at the graciousness of God as He has blessed us with another new life. It has been a rocky first trimester, both physically and emotionally, but we are so thrilled to announce that our second rainbow baby will be joining us later this year.  There are so many feelings that come with another healthy pregnancy, but the best way to describe it is by a popular quote that is often shared in the loss community:

It is understood that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean that the storm never happened or that we are not still dealing with its aftermath. It means that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

It is my prayer that you join us as our journey continues, as we know it's far from over - Olive's life and death was just the beginning of a really incredible love story.  A love story that all of you have grown to become a part of.  Thank you - for your love and constant support.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

40 Weeks Later

40 weeks. 

40 weeks is how long women are told they "should" expect to be pregnant for.  Olive was born at 39 weeks 6 days, one day shy of her due date. 

40 weeks. 

40 weeks is also how many weeks it's been since that day.  While I do realize that you are technically only pregnant for 38 weeks, if you've carried full term, the point I'm getting at is that we've officially grieved her longer than we had her.

That seems so strange to me.  Many people would only count the 36 hours she was on this earth, but I gladly and proudly boast that my child was alive and thriving inside of me well before she came earthside.  When I think about these 40 weeks I recognize that a lot has changed.

Occasionally I'll go back and read earlier posts on this blog - posts that are filled with sorrow, some that are filled with hope and a couple with a good balance of both.  But mainly sorrow.  and pain.  and hurt.

I have had a number of people tell me that they have enjoyed following our story from the beginning because they've had an opportunity to watch me grow.  I have grown.  As a parent you take on the responsibility of teaching your children lessons in life and, hopefully, have an opportunity to watch them grow into remarkable adults.  I don't have that option, and in our situation, the exact opposite happened.  I planned and prepared for what kind of a parent I would be to Olive - I never realized the full potential of what my daughter was going to end up teaching me in the long run.

Often times I catch myself thinking of the person I was before Olive.  The people and things that were important to me - where I spent my time and energy.  Then my thoughts will turn to the people I have met, the opportunities I've had and the love that has been shown since Olive's death. While I would do anything to cradle that sweet baby in my arms once more, I am also at a place of peace and acceptance for where this road has taken us.  I know that might garner some questions.  Obviously there is no way to trade in all of the people and moments since her death, so I won't try to put it into words - the only way I can describe it is, "I'm ok" - actually I'm better than OK. 

Please don't misunderstand me - I still hurt, I still cry and I still long for the moments I've missed out on - it's not a fair trade no matter how you look at it.  But there have been some wonderful blessings that have come from not only her life, but her death.

My marriage is stronger than ever.  I always knew I loved my husband - but there is something heartbreakingly beautiful about experiencing tragedy with someone. In our case, I believe we have walked away with a better understanding of each other. We have a new level of respect for our thoughts, feelings and ways we express ourselves.  Even after enduring the death of a child, I'm certain we will experience more that will shake us - but we've learned that it will not break us.

I have a greater appreciation for this life.  I should start out by saying that I do not, in any way shape or form, go through my day blissfully loving every thing about this life.  No - I still have bad days, people still irritate the crap out of me and I have low patience (some things will never change), but I appreciate more.  It's more than just admiring a beautiful sunset or seeing spring come to life after a long, harsh winter.  It's truly finding beauty in moments and feelings, even tragedy.  The "circle of life" has become much more apparent to me and while I feel sadness over life lost too soon, joy over new life and hope for everything in between - there is a peace that comes with accepting God's will as it falls into place. Things don't shake me as much - I know there is someone greater than me in control - especially over the heavy hard stuff that doesn't make sense.  And I truly believe something beautiful can come of everything - if we're open to it.

I have a much greater appreciation for the life to come.  I know this is controversial to some, but I have never been so sure of anything that I am that this is not the end.  It's true that I've begun a new relationship with the Lord through this walk, many of you have witnessed that first hand through this very blog. In no way am I anywhere near being as close to God as I'd like to be.  In no way am I anywhere near understanding Him.  I don't pray or spend as much time as I should with Him - and I don't give Him near the credit He deserves.  But He loves me anyway.

God and I still have a rocky relationship - and to be honest, I kind of like it that way.  I don't want to know Him perfectly, not in this life anyway - but I do want to spend this life searching for Him.  I never want to feel too comfortable with Him - that's how I felt before Olive was born.  God and I were good - He was giving and I was taking, it was the perfect relationship.  And then He took and I had nothing to give - and it's the loneliest and most empty I've ever felt - and while I was angry and confused, a deeper desire to draw near Him took over.  I brought my broken hallelujahs to Him and He answered. And someday this selfish, desperate body will be restored to glory - and I will know the joy my daughter now knows.

40 weeks later and I'm still sad, but I'm no longer angry.  I'm still grieving, but I'm no longer broken. I'm still confused, but I no longer question.  It's not that I don't have moments that knock me to the ground - but I get up more quickly now.  I recognize in my pain that the sadness, confusion and anger I was feeling were because I was missing out on her.  I wanted her longer so that I could have the experience of raising her and watching her grow.  In the end I've had to watch myself grow - and while not the ideal situation for this selfish mama, it has been a beautiful thing.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Small Everyday Moments

The trip had been planned for months.  I had been mentally preparing with therapy visits and reaffirmations, but no matter what I had done previously, when I stepped on the plane I was overcome with emotion.  There, in row 1, sat a mom and dad with a baby around Olive's age.  I turned to my husband, tears forming in the corner of my eyes, "this should be Olive's first plane ride."

We were headed south for a two-part trip.  The first leg of the trip was to visit our new niece, born one month prior.  The second part of the trip, planned very much on purpose, a four day getaway for the two of us a couple hours north to Charleston where we could reconnect and decompress.  I had no idea what to expect, meeting Olive's new cousin without Olive was starting out more difficult than I had planned.  We didn't cover this in my therapy visits - how would I deal with a crying baby on the plane ride? I couldn't just put on my running shoes and proclaim I was going out for a morning jog, and make my escape when I was feeling overwhelmed - no, this was not part of the plan.

Lucky for me our seats were at the back of the plane, and the baby didn't make a peep - at least not one I could hear.  Whew - that was a close one.

The 2 hour drive from the airport to Savannah was a leisurely one.  My husband and I chatted and listened to music, but the signs on the drive indicating that we were getting closer and closer to Savannah were reminding me of the moment I had been eager for and dreading all at the same time.  This trip was supposed to look much different.  It wasn't just going to be Olive's first plane ride or first trip to the ocean, no, this trip was supposed to be much more.  This trip would be a test of our parenting ability - could we travel with a baby?  Would she sleep on the plane or make a fuss?  How do you check a stroller? Do you rent a car seat at the car rental place or bring yours with you? My sister-in-law and I would share stories of newborn struggles over a hot cup of coffee.  We'd exchange stories of our new motherhood experiences in between nursing babies and diaper changes.

What was happening?  The panic began to set in.  Just as I was about to lose it in the car my husband nudged me to look out the window.  There, out the driver's side window, I saw the most beautiful rainbow - full of color and radiance.  The tears began again, except this time they were tears of relief - God was there, Olive was in my heart and we would survive this trip.

I definitely had moments of doubt and frustration, and there were moments where I needed to take a breath and recompose myself.  I couldn't help but get teary-eyed watching my husband rock our niece to sleep, or picturing us sitting on a blanket with Olive under moss-lined trees as we took a break from the hot Savannah sun. Every day there were moments that reminded me that she was not there physically.  The volume of the radio in the rental car - kept much higher than would have been appropriate for a small child, driving with the windows rolled down to let in the warm breeze,  eating raw oysters and other shellfish (we never could have gone to that nice of a restaurant with a 7 month old, and had we not lost our second baby - raw fish is a no-no when you're pregnant), late night dinners instead of having to call it an early evening because baby (or mama) needed to sleep. The harsh reality hit me every chance it could get - but I would not let it break me.

God continued to give me signs - for as many reminders of what I was missing, there were equal or more reminders that He was with me and she was OK.  I cannot begin to tell you how often I saw a butterfly or the word Olive.  Whether it was a butterfly on a scarf in a shop window or the Olive Branch A.M.E. church we passed on our way back to the airport - God knew what I needed when I needed it.  I felt His love and her memory in those small everyday moments. 

While standing in the ocean, still too cold to swim in but warm enough to dip your toes in, I contemplated whether Olive would have enjoyed the feel of the sand between her toes or let out a cry at the shock of the temperature on her little piggies.  Just as I started to feel the emotion well up in my throat, the sun peeked through the clouds.  I stood there with my eyes closed, listening to the waves roll back and forth over my ankles and allowed God to embrace me with the heat of the sunshine.  

She was OK. 
I was OK.
We are going to be OK.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Am I Enough?

"Am I enough?" I asked my husband one lonely Saturday night while lying in bed.  I had hit rock bottom, and felt like I was spinning out of control. Two days prior I had woken up and realized that our second baby was also going to make it to heaven before we'd have the chance to bring he or she home.  The reality that hit me that night was tougher than I could have imagined.

I may never bring a baby home.

Suffering another loss on top of the crippling one that we had just gone through a mere 6 months prior seemed like a cruel joke. Just weeks before my husband and I got the news that both terrified and excited me - baby #2 was on the way.  I knew I was pregnant - I had another special and peaceful dream, there were direct signs that it was coming - and even though I knew what I was going to see when I looked down at that stick, it still was a surreal moment.  Tears flowed, I hit my knees to give thanks and then ran to tell my husband that our dream of having another child was coming true.

I went through a slew of emotions - excited, anxious, frustrated and then giddy.  Day after day, new feelings.  Shortly after finding out I was pregnant I shared the news with some other mamas that have suffered loss - there were a handful of them that were also expecting, and I wanted to share my joy too.  There were 4 of us that were going to be mommies again, I was thrilled - for us all!

Until I tried to fall asleep that night, that is.  The only thought I could think of was, "1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss."  How awful.  It was in that moment that I realized that no pregnancy of mine would ever be the same.  Ever.

I guess statistics don't lie.  Weeks later I found myself curled up in a ball on the couch, crying my eyes out to episodes of Parenthood, realizing that I was 0 for 2.  What an awful feeling.  At least my babies have each other, I kept telling myself as I scrolled through newsfeeds of friends announcing due dates right around when I would have been expecting again. 

Babies were being made.  Babies were being born.  Mine were dying.

While different, the two losses have brought out the same gut-wrenching feelings.  I'd like to say, since I've been here before, that I'm handling them better - but I fear I'm not.  Or wasn't.  Depends on the day, I suppose.

That night, while bawling my eyes out to my husband, I wanted to know if I was enough.  If we never brought home any babies, would I be enough for the rest of our lives? That question lingered on my mind and in my heart for days.  Until I realized God was asking me the same thing.

"Am I Enough?"

"If the only babies I ever gave you are the ones you've had to say good-bye to, will you still trust me?"

"If the only chance to know your children is when you get to heaven to meet them, do you believe in my promises to be faithful to you and bring you home to meet them?"

"Do you believe that I still love you and have not left you, even in this?"

"Am I Enough?"

A month later and I can say that I'm getting there.  I wish I could tell you that my response has been, "Yes, Lord - you are enough," but it hasn't.  I'm not there yet - I don't know how long it will take, but I will tell you that I won't stop trying. 

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain
that morn shall tearless be.
George Matheson, "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go"

I believe that hope is greater than fear.  I believe that love can mend broken hearts.  I believe that this will make me a better, stronger mother. In the end, I believe that none of this will matter when I see my babies and we get to spend our forever together.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Olive the Person

Grief does funny things to you, and at really strange times.  There were so many babies born around the time I had Olive that it's hard to not wonder, as I gaze through Facebook each day, what she would look like, how she would be progressing developmentally and how different our lives would be. But as much as I miss not having a baby to fill our arms and fill our home - it's not the baby version of Olive that I miss the most.

I've told many people (most frequently my therapist) that I didn't just lose a baby when Olive died.  When Olive died I lost the innocence that comes with being a new mother. I lost the toddler years, and the awkward preteen years.  The disgruntled teenage years where she would slam her door and tell us just how unfair we were being over the simplest thing. The college and grown up years where she would realize we were right all along and make her way back to thinking we were cool again.

As I was sitting in church yesterday I noticed a mother with her two daughters a couple pews ahead of me.  Her girls were maybe 7 and 9, and the older one would glance up at her mother with such a loving gaze.  After awhile she put her hymnal down and climbed up on her mother's lap- she was tall and lanky, but her mother still found a way to cradle her sweet girl in her arms.  I realized after awhile that I was crying (which isn't uncommon for me in church).  It was so beautiful and yet so painful.

I often find myself wondering what kind of person Olive would have become. It's common to think about whether or not she would have blue eyes or curly hair like mom, but lately it's not the common things I long to know about her.  What instrument would she have played? Would she have enjoyed watching baseball and hockey with her dad and I, or would she much preferred to curl up with a good book? Does her forehead wrinkle or does she chew on her pencil when she's concentrating on her homework? Is she an animal lover or good with kids? Would she be a nurse or an engineer like dad? What does she do in her spare time- cook like me or would she prefer to go out to eat and have someone cook for her? 

When she's sad, would I have come over to her apartment with a whole cheesecake and two forks? Or would she have rather spent the afternoon doing a little retail therapy?

WHO would she have been?

That is who I find myself missing these days, not my baby, but my daughter.  I miss the moments I would have shared with her. I miss not having the chance to watch her grow up into an amazing woman, sister, wife, mother, friend.  

I know there is a greater reason, a greater purpose, that her life was only meant for us to have her as a baby, but it's hard not to long for those moments- selfishly, for us- not really for her.

I believe that Olive is safe and secure in the loving arms of her Savior. I believe that it was better for Olive (as it is for all of us) to be in heaven rather than here on earth.  That's a hard things to say as a mother. Obviously, as you can tell by this post, I long for the earthly moments that we are missing. I do truly believe she is experiencing a better life than I could have ever given her. But since I'm here and she's there it makes this life that much more difficult to navigate.  

I know the time we spend here on earth is brief compared to eternity in paradise, but the thought of going through life without her- without all of the mother/daughter moments I was so looking forward to just hurts my heart. Praying tonight that God would fill that emptiness back up with His love and comfort.  And, with a glimmer of the peace that my daughter is experiencing now - a peace that someday I'll experience with her.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Good Old Days

Do you ever find yourself reminiscing back to days when life was carefree and, dare I say, easy? Maybe for you those days were high school, maybe college, maybe your mid-20s. Either way, it seems most of us have a time in our life that we refer to as the good old days.  Chances are they weren't really that great, but when we compare them to where we're at now, sometimes anything is better than our current situation.

After my last post about pausing, I must admit I started to drop the ball a bit.  I was feeling good, I had basically gone through almost an entire month of "better days" and started to take those days for granted.  People have been telling me how strong I was, how much I had grown- and I was starting to really believe it. I was starting to feel like I had this.  How foolish of me.

Now, I'm not saying I haven't shown strength in my situation at times, or that I haven't grown over the last 6 months. In fact, I was recently thanking God for just that- not necessarily for how much I've grown but for how much my relationship with him had grown.  Six months ago I was angry, I was doubting God's very existence at times.  I was determined to stay rooted and pick up my bible every night, but when I did I would find myself with more questions.  I kept reading and kept questioning, and soon enough began finding the answers I was so desperately looking for- maybe not all of them were being answered exactly as I thought they would be, but I was finding comfort and peace that I hadn't felt in a long time.

I was feeling so much better that I actually asked God to give me a little glimmer of the sadness back. 

Say what? 

Why on earth would anyone want to be sad?

I should clarify -It's not that I wanted to be sad, but the sadness was one of those feelings that made me feel close to Olive. Having so many days in a row without that desperate sadness was making me feel like I was losing a piece of her.  And, if we're being honest, it's in my empty moments that I feel I learn and grow the most.  I was beginning to think that dealing with her loss was getting easier, and that made me uncomfortable. 

Last week I was brought to my knees. What a week.  Emotionally, physically, professionally and mentally I was rocked to the core.  Now, do I believe that God granted my wish of heartache and sadness because I asked for it? Not exactly, but I do believe he knew what was coming. Most of what I experienced last week was self-induced.  I didn't have to let the stress of work come home with me.  I didn't have to let the not so nice things said by someone close to me linger on as long as they did. When I woke up on the wrong side of the bed I chose to carry those feelings with me throughout the rest of my day.  I allowed so many of the feelings and emotions that I could control get in the way, that when the circumstances that were out of my control came, I was already a mess and feeling defeated.

God, in his infinite wisdom, did throw me some extra curveballs this week. Ones that left me, once again, asking all of the "why" questions that I just so recently reminded myself aren't the the right things to ask.  It's just human nature, I suppose, needing to have all the answers.  The need for justification, thinking that we are owed explanations, it's all a part of the sinful way we lack faith that God is still in control, still working to our advantage even when the circumstances would seem to tell us otherwise.  

I laid in bed this morning thinking about life before loss, how much easier it all seemed.  A couple years ago I was excelling at work, had success like I had never experienced before, my husband and I were traveling, I was in the best shape and health of my life and we were planning and preparing for what our future would look like.  Those were also days when I was dutifully going to church on Sunday's and felt my relationship with God was in a good place- I was working my tail off and he was staying out of my way. How could I complain? Life was grand.

How many of us find ourselves there so often? We never need God when times are good. But boy oh boy do we let him have it when our good old days come to a screeching halt. We turn our backs to him when times get rough because a good and gracious God would never let these bad things happen. And if he did, well then, he's just a jerk. 

We pray for for health and healing. We pray for success and blessing. No one prays for cancer or that they continue to live paycheck to paycheck. We pray for world peace and strong leaders. No one prays for terrorism or calamity. We pray for strong healthy babies and moms.  No one prays that their pregnancy ends with a funeral. It's not that those are the wrong things to pray for- God tells us to bring our requests before him.  He does not  promise to give us everything we ask for though.

I've been trying to change the way I pray. Rather than being so specific and almost demanding in my requests, I've begun to change it up a bit.  Nancy Guthrie writes this in her book, The One Year Book of Hope:

"Often I see the body of Christ put so much into pursuing God for physical healing. With great boldness and passion and persistence, we cry out to God, begging for healing of the body. And in these prayers, there is often a tiny P.S. added at the end where we say, "If it be your will." But shouldn't we cry out to God with boldness and passion and persistence in a prayer that says, "God, would you please accomplish your will? Would you give me a willing heart to embrace your plan and your purpose? Would you mold me into an instrument that you can use to accomplish what you have in mind?" And then, perhaps, we could add a tiny P.S. that says, "If that includes healing, we will be grateful."

My good old days feel a long ways away at times, especially when I've never felt this much emptiness, heartache and doubt all at once. This past week I found myself on my knees once again, faith shaken and mind stretching to understand what God was doing in my life.  I had just asked God for what I wanted - more emotion, feelings that would help me grow more and experiences I could continue to learn from. I got just that- just not the way I wanted. I guess I hadn't been clearer with my instructions to God. Been there?

In response to what he brought to my life this past week I tried something different. Instead of asking for what I wanted (after already asking and not getting what I wanted in the way I wanted it) I tried the above way of praying instead. I was tempted to pray, "Ok God, that's not what I meant- thanks for the quick little test, but now I need you to make it all better.  You can heal this, I need a miracle". Instead I got on my kees and thanked him for the blessing he had provided. I asked him for understanding and patience. I told him that I trusted him with my life and my death, and with the lives and deaths of those I love. I asked him to open my heart to what he has planned for us, for our present and our future.

But I found you can't just pray it once and expect results, it's a prayer that needs to be prayed every day. If it's not, you fall right back into the woe is me mentality that I so quickly found myself in, once again, today. 

I'm hurt. I'm confused. I don't get how much one person has to continue to endure for it to be enough. But then I'm reminded of how much He loves me, and that this life is just a small piece of the puzzle. I'm reminded that my suffering is understood by the One who suffered much more that me so that I wouldn't have to suffer forever. Oh, what a difficult truth to live though. 

If you're there, if you're in this same place - I understand.  Our stories are different, I'm sure, but your suffering- your circumstances don't define you. They don't mean that God is ignoring you or picking on you. But He very well may be testing you. That doesn't make him a jerk, it doesn't mean he no longer cares. In fact, it's just the opposite - He is in control even when you feel like it's all crumbling before you. It's not your circumstances that matter, but how you respond to them. This world's version of the good old days have nothing on what's to come. Hang in there, friend. 

And if you're not sure how to get there, you can pray Nancy's prayer: 

Lord, so often I run ahead of you, insistent that I know what is best and what you would want for my life. Teach me to trust in your love for me and your great wisdom so I will want your will for my life, no matter what. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I recognize that it's been awhile since I last posted.  Three weeks and one day to be exact.  Part of it has been that I've been traveling quite a bit this month and part of it is that I needed a break. Blogging has been extremely beneficial for my healing process, but it can also be exhausting continually opening myself up and exposing some of my most vulnerable feelings.  

I've really been forcing myself to pause more.  At home. At work. With God. If I'm being truthful, that sentence should actually say I'm trying to pause more.  I'm not always successful- ok, truth be told, most of the time I suck at it. But it doesn't mean that I'm not trying. The need to pause didn't come easy though.

After my last post I realized some things that started to cause me a bit of discomfort (as if I am not feeling a ton of discomfort anyway). It actually was January 2nd that I found myself smacked in the face once again, and I've had several of those moments like that one since.

My husband and I were invited to a friend's birthday party, we accepted the invitation and even went as far to invite some friends over to our house prior to the party. Sounds like fun, right?  It was, we had a great time but the whole night I couldn't help but realize that we didn't need a babysitter.  We didn't have to worry about who would watch Olive while mommy and daddy enjoyed a night out. We didn't have to check in with anyone or worry about her wellbeing that night.  

In fact, I haven't had to find a babysitter for the last 6 mos. We haven't had to worry about rearranging our schedules to make room for my business trips. I can stay out late on the weeknights and sleep in on Saturday mornings.

Nothing has changed.

But everything is different.

A simple birthday party, business trip or even just my daily routine - all of these things are constant reminders that my life doesn't look at all like it should right now.  At this point in life I find myself getting up, working out (if I'm lucky to be awake enough), heading into work, meeting with clients, going home, making dinner, chatting with my husband, reading and going to bed. 

The normalcy of my daily life was starting to make me feel like Olive was just a dream. You and I both know she was not a dream, but I'm honestly telling you that the past three weeks I've found myself having to search for reminders that she lived.  I have pictures in my house, on my phone and mental pictures that creep their way into my quiet moments throughout the day.  But I still found myself wondering how my life could feel this normal and yet be so incredibly different. 

The nursery is packed up. I wasn't crying myself to sleep every night.  I wasn't even smelling her blanket every night- not because I didn't want to feel close to her, but because I was exhausted.  

I was tired of hurting. I was tired of not hurting. I was tired of dreading the questions and then, when they came anyway, I was tired of answering them.  I was tired of being strong and I was tired of being a mess.

I needed pause. And that's exactly what God gave me.

Early on after Olive passed away I found myself in this same spot- wondering if she was a dream.  I beat myself up day after day, sabotaging my good days because I didn't think I shoud be having them. The months that followed were gut-wrenching. I was a mess, a ball of emotions that didn't know which way was up. I would cry out to God to save me, to give me some relief. I just couldn't take it.

I have tried, as I'm sure you can tell, to re-establish a closer relationship with God. While my blog has been such a huge part of my healing, sharing my most vulnerable feelings with God is what I really needed to focus on the last three weeks. As I mentioned, I had been praying for relief and when I really stopped to think about where I would truly find it, I knew in my heart it was to take a step back from my blog and to make time each day to spend more meaningful time with Him.  

In the spirit of honesty, I was dealing with some inner demons too.  I've been battling jealousy, hurt feelings and a constant anxiousness regarding some thoughts about what our future family looks like.  These feelings were consuming me. I knew I needed to shift my focus off of myself and back to God. 

It's taken awhile. I'm still broken and sad.  I still have days where I'm confused and consumed. Most days I still don't know which way is up. But there is a new kind of peace.  An honest to goodness peace. And hope. Two things I haven't felt in awhile. 

A long while.

In addition to spending time with God each day I've been reading a book by Lysa Terkeurst, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl, and there was a chapter that really spoke to me. It helped me to see that I needed to stop asking why all the time. "Why me?" "Why now?" "Why not this?" You get the picture. Story of my life, I tell ya.  

She has a chapter entitled "When God Hurts My Feelings" that talked about her sister's death. Her words reinforced my need to pause, and to continue to pause every day for the rest of my life. 

"In most situations, nothing positive can come from whatever answer there might be to a why question. If God gave us His reason why, we would judge Him. And His reasons, from our limited perspective, would always fall short. That's because our flat human perceptions simply can't process God's multidimensional, eternal reasons. God describes it this way. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8-9). We can't see the full scope of the situation like God can; therefore, we must acknowledge that His thoughts are more complete and that He is more capable of accurately discerning what is best in every situation."

She went on to say, "It takes time. Even when you love God and believe in His promises. Even when you know without a doubt that you will see your loved one again. Even when you know hope is still there. 
It takes time. 
It takes wading through an ocean of tears."

"It takes prayer. It takes making the decision to stop asking for answers and start asking for perspective."

"The why questions have been replaced with truths from God's word. Verses that stung to read at first have now become the very lifeline you cling to. God's presence has fallen softly upon you and helped you see that good can come and will come in you and through you." (Emphasis added)

Tears fell from my eyes when I read this. I needed pause and pause was what I began to do. What a difference it has made.  I'm happy to be back to blogging. I'm hopeful that I can get back to this part of my healing journey and that my words can be used for good - in a way that gives glory to the One who has give me pause and peace.