Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost...

Hello world...been out of touch online for awhile.  I gave up Facebook for the Lent season and since I interact with my blog world so much through Facebook that sort of went offline as well.  I also had a great deal going on that I wasn't quite prepared to share with the world.  You might need a tissue for this one.  I did.

As I look back on the last 40 days, I'm amazed at how much has happened and how it actually feels like months and months have passed with the range of emotions we have experienced.  We have had the best and the worst of times in a short month and few weeks.  Our family's story has forever changed.

Some of you know we have an 11 year old little girl, or really little young lady now.  She's been my world her entire life.  We waited to try to have more children for a few reasons.  First, my brain tumor diagnosis some years back along with the complication of being over 100 pounds overweight, add in my husband going back to college, me finishing college, moving three times, buying a house, trying to sell a house and several job changes and there was just never a time that felt right.  Well, we finally felt like the timing was good for us to expand our family and excitedly set out to accomplish just that.

Lo and behold, I became pregnant on the first try!  Yikes and wow, right?  I'm 36 now and was 25 when I had L all those years ago.  I was ecstatic that I was able to conceive again and began making lots of plans and saw the dreams I've put on hold for over a decade coming to fruition, finally.  Over the last few years I had been collecting cute maternity clothes, baby clothes of both genders just in case, and had even begun making plans for work to be able to take the time necessary away from my job.

My first doctor's appointment was on March 19th and the ultrasound showed a healthy little peanut looking baby moving around and a strong heartbeat of 144!  We were so happy to see all was well.  The baby measure a little smaller than my calculations had estimated, but my midwife was not overly concerned about that.  We continued on our plans of letting our little girl know the news the next night during a family photo shoot in Savannah with the huge surprised planned halfway through it.  She burst into tears when we presented her with her "I'm the Big Sister" charm bracelet.  I've never seen her so happy in all her life.

{These amazing photos taken by Apt B. Photography in Savannah, GA, if you are in the Savannah area, you must contact her, she is amazing!}

We spent the weekend in absolute familial bliss.  My daughter was talking to "Peanut" in my belly, bought the baby a toy and began making her own plans and just enjoying the future to come.  My girl has prayed for a little brother or sister for as long as she could talk.  We enjoyed our time together and traveled home.  The next day we let Elizabeth make the announcement to the church congregation my husband pastors and they were all as thrilled for us as we were for ourselves.  Eight weeks may seem a little early to share with the "world" but our church family is our family, and we wanted them to be praying for us.

Over that weekend on and off I did begin experiencing some complications.  I called the doctor Monday and they said to come on in.  An ultrasound showed our little peanut had grown appropriately since the prior Thursday and the heartbeat was up to 155.  All looked well.

The next day I flew to WV for work and the complications continued while I was gone, though I didn't feel unwell.  I called the doctor that Wednesday and she said to come in on Friday when I returned from my trip.

Friday morning I got ready as normal with my husband and we headed to the doctor.  I felt a little silly, going for a third ultrasound in 8 days, but something was telling me we needed to go.  The complications I was experiencing are some that many women experience through pregnancy so it wasn't terribly alarming.

The ultrasound began and immediately I realized something was different.  There was no movement.  The little heart I had seen thudding speedily on the monitors before had stopped and the picture was still.  For a moment I didn't realize what was happening. "I don't see a heartbeat," I said to the ultrasound technician desperately hoping I was wrong.  "I don't either," she replied. She tried multiple other angles and even turned the sound on as she had just 4 days before for us to hear the steady and beautiful beating of our baby's heart.  Instead the silence in my womb was deafening.  All was quiet.  My baby, that I had prayed for, rejoiced over, anticipated, and desired so greatly was gone.  Based on the growth, it appeared the baby passed on Wednesday or Thursday of that week.  My husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage on Wednesday the 25th.

We sat together in silence while we waited for the doctor to come into the room to confirm our fears.  He was compassionate and kind, and explained that my body was experiencing a "missed miscarriage" (also known as a "missed abortion" which is an awful word) where the fetus is not viable and passes away, but your body doesn't do what it needs to in order to complete the miscarriage.  He told me I could miscarry the baby on my own over the weekend or we could complete a D&C surgical procedure the following week.

Numbly we scheduled the surgery for Monday and stumbled out of the office.  In the parking lot, I crumbled and my husband and I just held each other and cried for awhile.  We were both completely and utterly shocked and lost.  I realize now that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage or loss.  I just didn't expect to be one of the four.  Who does?

Knowing we had to drive home and begin the task of breaking the sad news to our wonderful church family, our relatives and most importantly our beautiful, hope filled little girl made me physically ill.  My heart broke as much for her as it did for myself.

The great sadness made us implode temporarily and we spent the weekend crying, not sleeping and researching.  My husband went to church Sunday morning and preached a sermon about hope and not being angry with God in our times of sorrow.  I read blogs of women who had experienced miscarriage, read a book about how to begin to heal from our loss, and after my research decided to go through with the procedure the following Monday.  I couldn't bear the thought of waiting on my body to expel my sweet baby and frankly, I was scared of what would happen.  Monday morning I called the doctor and requested a final ultrasound before the procedure.  They graciously obliged and we once again set out for the doctor's office.

The ultrasound confirmed what we already knew.  Our little peanut had gone to be with Jesus the week before and I had the confirmation I needed in order to go through with the procedure. We crossed the parking lot to the surgery center and checked ourselves in.

I was emotional at a few different points before the procedure in pre-op and while waiting.  It seemed

I couldn't help but think of the story of Job in the bible.  He lost everything.  His children, his wealth, his home and finally his health.  And yet, he remained faithful to the Lord he served.

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away...blessed be the name of the Lord."  Job 1:21b

Those words were some of the first thoughts I had as I awoke from anesthesia.  I was also comforted greatly throughout the weekend before by Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows. 

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

When I was reading the book What Was Lost: A Christian Journey Through Miscarriage by Elise Erikson Barrett, one of the stages of grief she discusses is regarding Anger.  I read through that section in wonder, and each morning have awoken wondering if this would be the day that I am angry that our baby died.

I have yet to be angry and I'm not sure that I will experience that.  I have accepted the fact that this baby is gone, and was able to bypass the pain of this world in order to live forever in glory with God.  I am sad for us, sad for the life and soul I will never get to know.  Sad for my daughter missing out on a sibling.  Sad that my dreams and plans came to a screeching halt in a sudden and unexpected way.  But I am not angry.  I am not jealous of other women who are expecting a baby, or have recently had one.  In fact, one of my dearest friends has allowed me to spend some time with her four month old in the last week and I have found the giggles, smiles and baby burps comforting.  I sang her to sleep the other day after she had a bottle and my heart felt joy.

I'm thankful that I have this peace and I know that I'm not alone in all of this sadness and sorrow.  We've had multitudes of people checking on us, running errands for us, sending cards, flowers, texts messages and phone calls.  The support has been tremendous and I am thankful we shared our news with so many dear to us.  Had we kept it to ourselves, I would not have been surrounded by support.

I don't believe I hurt less because I'm not angry.  But I think having accepted our new reality, our new family storyline, has allowed me to move to a peaceful place in my heart, albeit sorrowful.

The grief and sadness have surprised me.  It hits me at the oddest moments.  When I'm in the shower.  When I realize my girl is asleep and I can finally "lose it."  When all is quiet in the house, and I'm not tired enough to sleep, the wave of sadness knocks me over once again.  When I was helping hide Easter eggs and thought of the child I would never know to see the wonder and fun of an egg hunt I cried.  When my daughter turned to me after the party and said, "This Easter would be so special if Peanut was still here..." through her inconsolable tears and questions of why.

I've been blown away by the compassion shown to me by women who have experienced this pain.  There are usually no words anyone can utter to make you feel better about this.  I have learned through some unhelpful comments by those who mean well, but have never experienced the loss of a child that one simply cannot understand this pain nor adequately speak to it until you've felt it for yourself.  Before I had my daughter 11 years ago, I remember different friends who were parents telling me, "You have NO idea how much you will love this child until the moment you meet them.  I can't even describe it to you."  I thought that was weird, but when I looked into those blue green eyes for the first time, I got it.  I really got it.  The love was indescribable, unexpected, and forever changed me.

The same could be said for a miscarriage or loss of a pregnancy.  You have NO idea how much you will hurt, grieve and mourn the loss of your baby until you actually lose one.  It's indescribable, unexpected, and something that has also forever changed me.

Time and our faith will help us continue to heal, both physically and emotionally.  I realize that something must have been wrong with our baby for it not to be able to continue growing and thriving.  This realization does NOT make me miss my baby any less.  It does not take away the pain of our loss and it does not lessen the magnitude of that loss in any way.  There is no "oh well, maybe next time" kind of feeling in my heart when I consider this child.  Will we try again?  Yes, absolutely.  For another child.  Nothing, however, will replace this one.  Ever.

Everyone's journey is different.  I do not have the false belief that my journey is easier or more difficult than anyone else has experienced.  I do know that without my faith and comfort of my Savior, this would all look and feel different to me.  I know He is carrying me through this sad time, and has a purpose for our pain.

Another scripture that has really resonated with me is 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 which says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ."

I have to believe that God will use this experience for our family to comfort others who grieve loss in a more personal way going forward.

A few months ago I sang this song at church and had no idea how much I would need it now.  In fact, these lyrics flooded my mind while we were still in the doctor's office that sad day.  I know at some point God will use this to encourage someone else, and for that reason, I'm posting a link to the video today.

I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

Today, I am sad, broken, and humbled by this loss.  But I am not alone in this.  I would not change having shared our joy and I don't regret getting excited so early on in the process and I would do both again in a heartbeat.  The gift of life is one that will always fill me with excitement, wonder and hope.

And as Alford Lord Tennyson said so eloquently, "Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."

I will celebrate that I was able to experience this gift, even if it remains unopened to my human eyes on this side of heaven as it will remain a part of my heart forever.

In the meantime, I will continue to find comfort in the arms of my sweet family, allow myself to be cradled by the prayers of many, and seek joy each day in being present and thankful for this life.